John Tolkin (left) was denied twice by goalkeeper Andre Blake. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

The Red Bulls solidified their hold on the MLS Eastern Conference cellar as they dropped even more points at home against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

Make that another three points squandered as the Red Bulls suffered a 1-0 defeat at Red Bull Arena.

The loss, which left the Red Bulls (1-4-6, 9 points) in 15th and last place as their season hit the one-third mark, was another disappointing result in what is shaping up as one of the worst seasons in the franchise’s 28-year history. The Red Bulls endured horrendous and utterly forgettable campaigns in 1999 and 2009.

Philadelphia, which was eliminated by Los Angeles FC in the Concacaf Champions League semifinals earlier in the week, improved to 4-4-2 and 14 points.

And to add further insult to insult, the Union defeated the Red Bulls for the 10th successive time, winning every game between the sides since September 2019.

Again, the Red Bulls were missing three key attacking players – forwards Lewis Morgan (hip injury) and Dante Vanzeir (fourth game of a six-match suspension) and midfielder Luquinhas (adductor). That certainly did not help their attack.

New York outshot Philly, 17-3, and enjoyed a much better passing accuracy at 62 percent to 52.2 for the visitors.

They have scored but seven times in 11 matches this sorry season.

But as the saying goes, statistics are for losers.

Despite enjoying an 11-2 shot advantage, the Red Bulls found themselves trailing the visitors 1-0 at the half.

In fact, the Red Bulls continued their miserable run of play at home as they failed to score in the opening half for the fifth consecutive time at RBA this season. In other words, they haven’t scored at home in the first half at all.

Which is a good reason why they are in last place.

The Union tallied on a controversial penalty kick call, just after the half hour.

Referee Joseph Dickerson ruled that Red Bulls defender Dylan Nealis had knocked down forward Carranza on the right side of the box on what appeared to be a borderline call, in the 26th minute.

After a VAR check, the call stood, although the Red Bulls disputed the call.

Daniel Gazdag took the ensuing PK and powered his shot into the lower left corner for his fourth goal of the campaign, as goalkeeper Carlos Coronel leaped in the opposite direction in the 31st minute.

Due to the delay on the penalty kick call, the first half took an extra nine minutes to complete. It didn’t help the Red Bulls one bit, although Philly midfielder Quinn Sullivan was booked with a yellow card for colliding with Coronel seven minutes into stoppage time.

The hosts did have their opportunities, however few there were.

Goalkeeper Andre Blake twice denied John Tolkin, tipping the ball away in the 10th minute and frustrating him in the 63rd minute.

When Blake ventured out of the penalty area to clear the ball away in the 68th minute, long-time Jamaican national team teammate slammed into him and was slapped with a yellow card.

Only days after signing, 18-year-old midfielder Ronald Donkor made his Red Bulls debut, replacing Dylan Nealis in the 81st minute. That was New York’s final substitute, its third of the contest. However, the Red Bulls subbed in three windows, exhausting their opportunities for more fresh legs on the field.

The Red Bulls thought that they should have been awarded a penalty in the 90th minute after ball hit the hand of Philly defender Jakob Glesnes, but there was no call.

There was plenty of fight from head coach Gerhard Struber, who was awarded a yellow card for dissent, complaining about the no-call.

Blake had no problems catching Burke’s bloop header five minutes into second-half injury time to help close out the match, which finished in the eighth minute of added time.