Red Bulls Held to a Draw; Limp Toward Open Cup Final

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

Red Bulls logoHARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls used a dampened starting lineup to get a fourth straight draw Sunday, dominating statistically but unable to generate a goal in a 0-0 draw with the Philadelphia Union.

The result – against a team that has not won since Aug. 5 – extended the Red Bulls winless streak to five heading into Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final with Kansas City, a run in which New York has scored only four goals. The dry period follows a streak in which the Red Bulls had won eight of nine and averaged nearly three goals a game.

The closest the Red Bulls came to scoring was in the 77th minute, when Sacha Kljestan chipped a free kick from the right side of the area in front of goal. Philadelphia keeper Andre Blake punched the ball away, but Bradley Wright-Phillips was able to get a foot to the rebound and send it back in.

Blake blocked the second attempt and Chris Pontius cleared the ball off the line.

“Apart from not scoring, this was a decent performance,” Wright-Phillips said. “Jesse’s (Marsch) expressed, for the time he’s been here, sometimes it’s not about winning, it’s about looking like us and today I thought we did that for most of the game.”

Marsch was clearly managing his roster for Wednesday’s Open Cup final, starting Gonzalo Veron, Derrick Etienne, Muhamed Keita and Damien Perrinelle in place of Wright-Phillips, Kljestan, Tyler Adams and Aaron Long, who were relegated to the substitutes bench.

Marsch replaced Keita with Kljestan in the 58th, Wright-Phillips for Etienne in the 66thand Adams for Veron in the 75th.

“You’re looking at which players have the best ability to recover, you’re looking at how to get the balance of the team right, how to rotate guys so the team is still going to look the way we want but also to give certain guys a break to also make sure on Wednesday they’re fresh,” Marsch said. “The game would have been helped a lot by an earlier goal, a lead, then maybe we could have put the nail in the coffin, but Philly hangs on, makes it difficult and sometimes we have these games at home where we are just a little bit unlucky.”

Keita was making only his third appearance for the club and first start, while Veron was starting for only the third time this season and Etienne for his sixth. Perinnelle was playing for only the second time in five games.

Fidel Escobar, who had played the full 90 minutes in three of the four previous games, also was on the bench.

The Red Bulls dominated the first half, outshooting Philadelphia, 12-1, and generating nine corners – four in the first 10 minutes. Philadelphia didn’t manage a chance until Pontius got off a partially blocked effort from the 18 that rolled easily into Luis Robles.

Blake was needed for several dramatic saves, including having to race off his line past the 18 in the 22nd minute to get to a rolling ball fractionally ahead of Veron, and again in the 32nd to thwart Veron from inside the area.

The Red Bulls ended up outshooting the Union 16-6 with 63 percent of the possession.

“The performance was pretty good from some of the guys who aren’t starting every week,” Kljestan said. “A lot of guys took advantage of their minutes. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come away with a goal and really make a difference, which sucks.”

The Union had a momentary scare in the 28th minute when Blake, after crashing through a crowd to punch away a ball, punted over the touchline and dropped to the ground rubbing the back of his neck. After receiving medical attention for a few minutes, he continued.

New York improved to 42 points but remained in sixth place – the last playoff berth, one point behind fifth-placed Atlanta. Philadelphia remained in 10th with 33 points, five points ahead of last-place D.C. United.