Kacper Przybylko scored for Philly in the first half. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
The Red Bulls entered Subaru Park Tuesday night with visions of getting the bitter taste of being eliminated by the Philadelphia Union in the 2019 playoffs out of their collective mouths.
Instead, they tasted defeat again in Chester, Pa.
In contrast to the 4-3 postseason loss in extratime, this one wasn’t as high-scoring as the Union carved out a 1-0 win in a closed-door match.
Kacper Przybylko scored the lone goal and Jamaica international goalkeeper Andre Blake chalked up his third shutout of the campaign.
The Red Bulls (3-3-1, 10 points), blanked for the third time in their last four matches as Philly (3-1-3, 12) climbed over them into third place in the Eastern Conference.
“For us it was a big game,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “We feel disappointed right now. It wasn’t good enough on the night because we talk about ‘good enough’ being a game, not half a game.”
The Union, playing at home for the first time in 310 days or since Oct. 20, 2019, caught the Red Bulls defense sleeping in the 31st minute.
Ray Gaddis sent a right-wing cross that an unmarked Przybylko had an easy time slamming the ball home past goalkeeper Ryan Meara from close-range while Kyle Duncan and Aaron Long were more like spectators than defenders.
RAY GADDIS ASSIST APPRECIATION THREAD and what a finish by the Friendly Striker to put us up in the first half!#PHIvrbny 1 – 0
Posted by Philadelphia Union on Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Video courtesy of the Union Facebook page
The Red Bulls had problems solving the Philly backline for some quality shots against arguably the best the best goalkeeper in the league in Blake.
Realizing his team needed a change, creativeness and punch up front, Armas replaced midfielder Jake Stroud with Kaku and forward Brian White with Tom Barlow at halftime.
It livened up the attack.
“We think that it was completely different in the second half, but it’s unacceptable, the first half, for us to show up without the energy, and the fight that we normally have, and the commitment,” Armas said. “Plain and simple, half of two games. First half, far off, second half looked like us and that’s got to be the standard.”
Cristian Casseres, Jr. took a shot from distance that Blake had an easy time saving in the 53rd minute.
Eight minutes later, however, he had to work much harder to deny Barlow’s attempt from the right side after a giveaway by defender Mark McKenzie.
On the other end of the field, Sergio Santos had Meara dead to rights in the 67th minute, but the Red Bulls keeper denied him to keep the visitors within striking distance.
New York one more opportunity to equalize four minutes into second-half stoppage time. Kaku fired a free kick into the box that Blake punched away before a Philly defender cleared the ball out of the area and the final whistle sounded.
“In the first half, we weren’t quite aggressive enough with the ball going forward,” Red Bulls captain Sean Davis said. “The positive coming out of the game is the second half. We really pushed the game, we created some good looks at goal. I think we have to sharpen up in both boxes, keep the shutout on the road, but also find the back to the end.”
The Red Bulls are next in action at the New England Revolution Saturday at 7:30 p.m.