“I think they look at us as a big rival,” he said. “Before the game, I spoke and [Red Bulls coach] Jesse [Marsch] spoke about trying to match their enthusiasm and mentality, how they’re going to come out and play us. I thought we started out well, but playing them is difficult because they want to beat us and it’s a big deal to beat us.”
The Red Bulls matched the Union’s intensity, but lacked sharpness in the final third in a match that ended 0-0 on a hot and sticky night at Red Bull Arena.
Philadelphia (4-5-3, 15 points) will take the road point, its fourth in six games away from Talen Energy Stadium, and the Red Bulls (7-3-1, 22 points) extended an unbeaten streak to five games with their first draw of the season.
“This takes a lot out of guys’ legs, a game with this intensity and this heat, but I think every one of our guys grew a bit in the game, even the older guys, I think they raised their level, as well,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “A unique game, I thought, a good game, and as exciting as you can have. But these types of games, we see young players growing and developing on both teams.”
Three minutes later, Wright-Phillips and Danny Royer played a give-and-go, cut inside of a defender but slipped his shot wide of the far post.
May 26, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Borek Dockal (10) plays the ball against New York Red Bulls midfielder Florian Valot (22) and New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis (27) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
“I think we could have been more decisive in the final part of the field,” Royer said. “I think we were playing pretty decent to the box, but then we couldn’t really create the big chances. It was close to create those chances and sometimes Blake did a good job of sniffing out plays, sometimes the final ball didn’t find our teammates.”
The match’s seminal moment came early in the second half when Lawrence handled an Epps shot, resulting in a penalty kick. Meara dived the wrong way, but C.J. Sapong rolled his shot wide of the net in the 53rd minute.
“As I was diving, I was looking at it and I’m like, ‘Man, it’s a little far.’ Luckily it doesn’t hit the back of the net,” Meara said. “I don’t know, it was maybe a questionable handball. I don’t think Kemar did it on purpose. He wasn’t even looking at the ball. Sometimes things have a way of working themselves out.”
Said Curtin: “He’s a striker and you have to have a short term memory. Again, it’s a tough one. Top players miss PKs. It happens all the time. It’s important that our teammates pick them up.”
After the game, Curtin called the Red Bulls the best team in MLS. It’s a comment that makes his counterpart — and close friend — uncomfortable.
“I don’t like feeling like we’re the best and I don’t like people saying that we’re the best, I truly don’t like that,” Marsch said. “I like to feel like we always have something to prove, and we always have more to do and more room to grow and further improvement, so it’s key for us to maintain our hunger.”
Listen: New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch’s post-match press conference