The New York Red Bulls clinched first place in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.
“Credit to Red Bulls. They took it to us from the opening whistle,” Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin said post game.
With Philadelphia eliminated from playoff contention, Curtin surprisingly did not rotate his squad as drastically as some thought he would. The only two changes made by Curtin were to place Steven Vitoria at centerback and Andrew Wenger at right fullback.
Only seconds into the game, the Red Bulls snatched a quick 1-0 lead. On the opening kickoff, Union central attacking midfielder Cristian Maidana played the ball backwards in the direction of Michael Lahoud. However, the ball went past Lahoud and right onto the foot of sprinting New York winger Mike Grella. Grella, with only Vitoria to beat, launched a shot inside the near post from 15 yards out. His ensuing shot appeared to deflect off Vitoria and into the near post past a wrong-footed Andre Blake for the 1-0 lead. Grella’s goal came just seven seconds into the game, and now holds the record for fastest MLS goal in history.
Only three minutes later, New York doubled their lead off a corner kick. In the fourth minute, Sacha Klejstan sent in a corner kick that was deflected back post by Damien Perrinelle and found a wide open Bradley Wright-Phillips for the wide-open tap in goal and the 2-0 lead.
Throughout the game, New York made a concerted effort to attack Andrew Wenger at right back, and their efforts paid off as Grella made Wenger pay every time he touched the ball.
Things would continue to get worse for the Union when Grella got his brace only 17 minutes into the game.
In the 17th minute, the winger continue to embarrass the Union backline when he received a pass from Dax McCarty. Then, Grella used some nice footwork to get past Vitoria and beat Blake again at the near post to make the Red Bulls lead 3-0, not even 20 minutes in.
To compound being 3-0 down, Philadelphia were simply unable to get anything going on offense nor possession-wise in the first half. Players were mishitting outlet passes as well as hitting in crosses while no one was in the area.
The scoring bonanza would not stop for New York there, as they would pile on a fourth in the closing moments of the first half. In the 44th minute, Lloyd Sam and Dax McCarty put together some great one-two combo passing in the box. McCarty then sent a ball across the mouth of the goal, where Kemar Lawrence lost his marker and tapped it in for the 4-0 lead.
When the whistle blew for the end of the first half, the Red Bulls had amassed over 65% possession with all four of their shots on goal going into the back of the net. Philadelphia created only one shot on net with very little meaningful possession.
In the second half, Philadelphia came out much stronger, but it was all for naught. The Union added a goal from Sebastien Le Toux in the 55th minute off a Tranquillo Barnetta assist. Le Toux’s goal was certainly a case of too little, too late as New York brought the game to a close with a final score line of 4-1.
With their win, New York also clinched a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2016-2017. Furthermore, the Red Bulls keep pace with FC Dallas for the Supporters’ Shield with one game left to play against the Chicago Fire.
Philadelphia, already eliminated, will try to finish the season on a high note against Orlando City on October 25th at PPL Park.