Union suf­fer costly loss to Red Bulls

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge

busi­ness end of the sea­son will do for you, leav­ing the Union with three wins in 13 games since early July.

The Red Bulls (14-9-9, 51 points), who re-as­cend the Eastern sum­mit, are un­beaten in 14 MLS games (7-0-7) and 18 in all com­pe­ti­tions.

Kl­jes­tan and McCarty both had a goal and an as­sist to power the vic­tory, while Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his MLS-lead­ty­ing 21st goal.

Even if the marginal­ly­filled Red Bull Arena didn’t in­di­cate it, Satur­day’s af­fair was as close to play­off in­ten­sity as the Union have ex­pe­ri­enced in some time. And they were found want­ing in key mo­ments against the bat­tle-hard­ened hosts.

“That was play­off at­mos­phere right there,” said Chris Pon­tius, who con­tin­ued his stel­lar sea­son with a goal and an as­sist. “That was the pace of what a play­off game is go­ing to look like. I think we knew that go­ing in, I don’t think the guys shied away from that.”

How­ever vig­or­ously they ap­proached the chal­lenge, they didn’t do enough to pass the test. The most glar­ing short­com­ing was a pair of set-piece goals, in­clud­ing the headed gamewin­ner by the 5-foot-9 McCarty, sky­ing to turn Kl­jes­tan’s free-kick de­liv­ery into his MLS-best 17th as­sist of the year.

For what­ever other play­off-cal­iber traits the Union show­cased, such let­downs il­lus­trated the dis­tance they still need to cover to achieve an in­creas­ingly ten­u­ous grasp on a play­off spot.

“I guess you guys can kind of say that that’s a play­off-type game or what­ever,” Ale­jan­dro Be­doya said. “But in an arena with the fans be­hind the Red Bulls like that driv­ing up the at­mos­phere, it makes for an in­tense game. … I think we gave away too many soft goals. Two goals on set pieces, that’s in­ex­cus­able, so we have to do bet­ter.”

On the one hand, the Union were dealt dif­fi­cult blows with Josh Yaro and Be­doya leav­ing early due to in­juries. Yaro was stretchered off in the 30th minute af­ter a scary col­li­sion and eval­u­ated for a sus­pected con­cus­sion, which could be his sec­ond in two weeks. But he was talk­ing with team­mates in the locker room af­ter the game. Be­doya made way in the 51st with a rib in­jury he said has per­sisted all week and could cast doubt on a call-up to the U.S. Na­tional Team, which would be an­nounced Sun­day.

That damp­ened the mo­men­tum of Fabian Her­bers’s 15th-minute goal, a side-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard area that slith­ered through goalie Luis Robles’s hands.

Af­ter Yaro’s de­par­ture, the Red Bulls pushed hard for an equal­izer and were re­warded be­fore half­time, Kl­jes­tan go­ing for place­ment over power on a drag­back pass from Felipe off a short cor­ner. An­dre Blake (five saves) had turned away two ear­lier ef­forts from Mike Grella with su­perb saves.

The Red Bulls took the lead two min­utes af­ter the break, with a long ball from McCarty catch­ing the back­line flat-footed and al­low­ing Wright-Phillips to one-time a bounc­ing ball into the side-net­ting.

Pon­tius, who as­sisted on Her­bers’s tally, tied a ca­reer-high with his 12th goal, in the 55th, nod­ding in a long Fabinho cross.

That should’ve been enough, but the Red Bulls had other ideas.

“We still man­aged to get two goals on the road, and if you get two goals on the road, you should be ei­ther com­ing out with a tie or a win,” said Pon­tius, who saw a bi­cy­cle kick beaten down by Robles in the 83rd. “We’ve just got to shut things down de­fen­sively.”

What the Union have to do now, clearly ar­tic­u­lated by Curtin, is get a result. They have two home games re­main­ing to close out the sea­son af­ter next week’s in­ter­na­tional break. And re­sults in those went from pre­ferred to manda­tory.

“It’s clear what we need to do: We need to win a soc­cer game,” the coach said. “We have two at home, against Or­lando and this New York team. Both teams are good. There’s no easy points in our league.”

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