With playoffs nearly assured, Philadelphia rest starters Sunday
Philadelphia had all but assured themselves of a playoff spot barring an epic collapse before the start of the match, so little was left to play for when the team took the pitch Sunday afternoon. With a likely midweek MLS Cup Playoff matchup looming, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin opted to rest some of his players and allow player such as Eric Ayuk, Roland Alberg and Fabian Herbers to make the start.
Union start strong, but Red Bulls go onto dominate
Philadelphia started off with intensity as, in the fourth minute, Roland Alberg nearly put the home team ahead, but sprayed his shot wide of the Red Bulls net. After the first ten minutes, the Red Bulls high press began to make its mark and constantly hurry the Union backline as well as midfield.
Despite the early good start from the Union, the Red Bulls showed why they will finish at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference table as Jesse Marsch’s side controlled the pace from that point onwards.
New York’s persistence paid off halfway through the first half. In the 26th minute, Red Bulls centerback Aurelien Collin hit an excellent pass to a streaking Bradley Wright-Phillips. Wright-Phillips made no mistake on the breakaway as he beat Andre Blake one-on-one for his 24th goal of the season and the 1-0 Red Bulls lead.
The scoreline stood at 1-0 at halftime even though New York had thoroughly played the more complete half after registering six shots with three on net.
Philadelphia fail to rally in second half
Philadelphia attempted to rally in the second half and end the regular season on a much more positive note. In the 46th minute, Alberg beat Luis Robles from about five yards out, but rattled the near post.
New York, an experienced and well accomplished side, sensing one more goal would likely put the game out of reach found their second in the first 15 minutes of the second half. In the 57th minute, Alex Muyl was left wide open on the back post as Sacha Kljestan found him for the easy tap in goal and 2-0 lead. Kljestan was not credited with the assist, which would have been his 20th on the season.
Curtin did send in some of his regular starters such as CJ Sapong and Tranquillo Barnetta in an attempt to get his players some play time, but still the Union continued to flounder in all aspects of the match as the final whistle blew with the scoreline still at 2-0.
Philadelphia clinch MLS Cup Playoff spot, despite poor performance Sunday
With New England Revolution makeup the 13 goal differential difference, Philadelphia clinched the sixth and final in the Eastern Conference. However, the mixture of boos and indifference showered down upon the team after the final whistle Sunday made the moment feel less than celebratory.
Philadelphia celebrated July fourth weekend top of the table in the Eastern Conference with 26 points through 18 matches. From that point onward, Philadelphia only went on to earn 16 points in 16 games, including only earning two points in their last seven matches, which is the worst among all MLS teams in that stretch.
“First and foremost, it starts with me.” Curtin said as he opened his post-game press conference. “We’ve had a difficult end to the season.”
Philadelphia will look to continue their season when they travel to Toronto FC in the Knockout Round of 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs on Wednesday October 26th at 7:30 PM EST. New York has a bye in the Knockout Round and will return to play next weekend