CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union used Sunday’s clash with the New York Red Bulls as a measuring stick for the postseason.
Although they came out on the wrong end of the result, the Union believed they put in a respectable performance against one of the two contenders for the Supporters’ Shield.
The loss didn’t dampen the playoff expectations of the Union, who need a win over New York City FC on Decision Day to capture the No. 3 seed and a home playoff game in the knockout round.
Below are the three top takeaways from Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls.
Union hold own against potential playoff opponent
The Union controlled the play over 90 minutes against their I-95 rival, and it was one of the positives to come out of the home contest, despite how disappointing the defeat was.
“I think the first half we played a very good game,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “We had the game under control, only the goal was missing. The second half was 50/50 I think. We had the ball, but didn’t create that much.”
The Union held 66 percent of the possession, attempted 576 passes compared to 302 from the Red Bulls and attempted 14 shots to the Red Bulls’ eight.
However, in the second half the Union were unable to follow their strong first half, and most importantly, they were unable to find the back of the net and only put two shots on target.
“I thought we were in control of the game,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “We were creating stuff. The end product isn’t there.”
Cory Burke had a rough afternoon against the Red Bulls center back pairing of Tim Parker and Aaron Long, who Union manager Jim Curtin called the best defense in Major League Soccer.
“It was a tough night in terms of creating chances, but if you look at the data, that team doesn’t give up a lot of chances and when you do get your looks, you really do have to capitalize,” Curtin said.
The play in front of goal needs to improve in the Decision Day clash with NYCFC, and if the Union take on the Red Bulls in the playoffs, they need to be able to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.
If not, the Union will experience a rough finish to the season and a possible exit in the knockout round of the playoffs.
Trusty, McKenzie shine once again versus BWP
One of the most promising bits to come from Sunday’s loss was the performance the young center back duo of Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie produced against Bradley Wright-Phillips.
The young pairing shut down Wright-Phillips in their last meeting at Red Bull Arena and they held the Red Bulls forward without a shot.
“The backline was excellent,” Curtin said. “Andre [Blake] didn’t have a ton to do today, maybe had a couple of half-chances in the first half that were mistakes or missed clearances or that kind of thing, but Auston and Mark were excellent. I felt they did a great job neutralizing Bradley Wright-Phillips, which is difficult.”
The center backs combined for nine interceptions, four clearances and four tackles while holding the Red Bulls to four shots on target.
“I think we controlled everything,” Medunjanin said. “The center backs controlled Wright-Phillips. He couldn’t move. He got mad. I think Mark and Trusty played a very good game today.”
Curtin also had praise for outside backs Ray Gaddis and Keegan Rosenberry, who limited any movement forward from the Red Bulls wingers.
“Keegan played well, I thought, and Ray gave us another good performance,” Curtin said. “So the back four was great. We were just another off in the attacking part of the field today.”
With the back four playing well, the Union should be able to approach the NYCFC match in a proactive way, and Trusty and McKenzie should be able to use the performance against Wright-Phillips as a confidence booster ahead of a clash with David Villa.
Union express frustration with field conditions
The Union players thought the field conditions were so bad that Medunjanin went as far to say he’d rather play on the road in the postseason if the grass remains in the same shape.
“How the field looked like today, I prefer to play away because it’s unbelievable that we play on this kind of field,” Medunjanin said. “It’s unbelievable. We’re a team that already achieved the playoffs and we play good soccer and to play on this kind of field is a shame.”
Bedoya shared the same sentiment after the defeat and noted the high school games played on the field directly after the Union game and Monday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
“The field is terrible,” Bedoya said. “It pisses me off hearing there are high school games being played here after today. It’s a disaster. We’re a professional team getting ready for the playoffs and the field is in terrible shape and they’re just going to mess it up even more.”
The groundskeepers have at least 10 days to get the field ready for a potential home playoff game on October 31 or November 1 in the knockout round.