C.J. Sapong connected for his first career hat-trick. Bill Streicher (USA TODAY Sports)
CHESTER, Pa. — The Red Bulls were a sight for extremely sore eyes Saturday night.
The Philadelphia Union, winless in eight games this Major League Soccer season and 15 going back to 2016, broke out of its slump in spectacular fashion en route to a stunning 3-0 triumph at Talen Energy Stadium.
Striker C.J. Sapong provided the scoring with his first career hat-trick — within an 11-minute span — and Andre Blake supplied stellar goalkeeping for Philly (1-4-4, 7) as the Red Bulls continued their road woes.
The Red Bulls (5-5-1, 16), who have surrendered 14 goals in six road matches, suffered their second consecutive away shutout, following a 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City Wednesday.
“Obviously, huge disappointment on this road swing,” head coach Jesse Marsch said. “We can’t seem to solve the puzzle for the road and not only can we not seem to solve the puzzle, we seem to give up goals in bunches. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do better than that and I’ll look hard at things and I’ll make sure that we find ways to improve.”
The Red Bulls are feeling it at both ends.
“I just told the team to make sure we weren’t hard on Aaron Long and the defense because the game was lost by our inability to take advantage of chances that we created and really good chances,” Marsch said. “We haven’t been on the road and created these kind of chances in a long time. Not sure why were not able to finish off our plays and not score as many goals as we need to.
“We’ve got to figure out a way now to get more leads, capitalize on more chances and that’s going to take pressure off our defense.”
Both goalkeepers were called on to make a pair of saves in the opening half.
First, New York’s Luis Robles punched away Roland Alberg’s attempt in the seventh minute.
Six minutes later, it was Blake who needed two hands to knock away Felipe’s shot from a difficult ankle on the left side.
In the 19th minute, it was Philly’s turn as Robles stopped a shot from U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya via the top of the box.
And only a minute later, Blake managed to deflect Daniel Royer’s right-wing cross with Kemar Lawrence looming on the doorstep at the left post.
The teams continued to trade shots and saves for the opening half of the final half.
First, Alex Muyl’s bicycle kick from the left side of the penalty area went straight to to the keeper in the 60th minute.
Sacha Kljestan tried a more conventional shot from 18 yards that Blake dove to save in the 70th minute.
“If we could’ve found a way to get a goal I think that would’ve dramatically changed the complexion of the remaining of the game,” Roble said.
Less than a minute later, Robles denied Sapong on the other end with a spectacular save.
Whether that save gave Sapong motivation, it wasn’t immediately known, but the Philly forward was a different player for the rest of the match.
First, he broke the ice in the 74th minute as Sapong took advantage of plenty of room to fire a shot that deflected off the leg of Aaron Long into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“That’s the frustrating thing about the situation when they scored the first goal,” Robles said. “I felt at 0-0 in the second half we were doing quite well. We had the run of play, we were creating some chances and even when we were 1-0 we had, I felt, one or two good chances.”
After Blake stopped Bradley Wright-Phillips with a vital save in the 80th minute, Sapong headed home a left-wing cross by Chris Pontius only a minute later for a two-goal margin.
Sapong closed out his memorable night by converting an 85th-minute penalty kick after center back Damien Perrinelle was called for a handball. The forward placed his shot into the lower right corner while Robles dived the other way for his third goal.