Union top Red Bulls to end home strug­gles

First MLS vic­tory at PPL Park since March 15

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By MATTHEW De GE­ORGE mde­ge­orge@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

CH­ESTER – The Philadel­phia Union en­tered Wed­nes­day night’s game wor­ried about end­ing one long, un­sightly drought. It was the halt­ing of an­other that made it pos­si­ble.

Goals by Conor Casey, Se­bastien Le Toux and Fred, the lat­ter his first in MLS play in ex­actly 45 months, helped the Union end their home-field hoodoo, notch­ing a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.

The win is the first at home for the Union (5-8-7, 22 points) in MLS play in four months and one day, dat­ing to the en­counter with New Eng­land March 15. The club had gone win­less (0-2-5) in seven matches at PPL Park since.

New York, which saw a five-game un­beaten streak come to an end, got a goal thanks to MLS leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips and looked dan­ger­ous in the sec­ond half, but they couldn’t over­come the deficit fos­tered by a sleepy first half.

The Union’s re­turn to the win col­umn at home was aided by the 51st-minute goal from Fred, his first in his sec­ond stint with the club. Fred’s last goal in MLS came ex­actly three years and nine months ago on Oct. 16, 2010 – in a Union jersey at PPL Park against New York.

Casey opened the scor­ing af­ter nine min­utes with a su­perb com­bi­na­tion of dogged work and del­i­cate touch on the ball in what was the club’s first or­ga­nized foray for­ward.

Off a Zac MacMath goal kick, Casey beat de­fender

Jamison Olave on an aerial duel, con­trolled the ball and played Andrew Wenger out wide. Wenger put a hope­ful ball into Casey’s path, and the bulky striker took a pre­cise touch around a be­fud­dled Matt Mi­azga and fin­ished low and to the right of Luis Robles.

Fred’s goal came cour­tesy of Casey’s dis­cre­tion, the striker dum­my­ing a look at a de­flected cross from Sheanon Wil­liams for the Brazil­ian sub­sti­tute to latch onto it and blis­ter one past Robles. Fred had come on for in­jured Cris­tian Maidana late in the first half.

The Fred goal seemed to awaken both teams in the way Casey’s hadn’t, turn­ing up the heat in a meet­ing of the two most pro­lific scor­ing teams in the East­ern Con­fer­ence. Within nine min­utes, the Red Bulls’ tried and true com­bi­na­tion of Thierry Henry to Wright-Phillips struck, the French­man’s MLS-leading 10th as­sist of the sea­son set­ting up the English­man’s 16th goal and 15th in the last 12 matches.

Just as the Red Bulls were ramp­ing up the pres­sure, Le Toux was able to re­lieve it by con­vert­ing from the penalty spot, his 11th suc­cess­ful spot kick in 11 at­tempts in a Union kit. Eric Alexan­der horse-col­lared Mau­rice Edu in the box on a cor­ner kick, forc­ing ref­eree Bal­domero Toledo to point to the spot. Le Toux made no mis­take, and though Robles guessed cor­rectly, there was no stop­ping the ef­fort Le Toux pounded into the roof of the net.

The goal is the Union’s 22nd in the last nine MLS matches and 29th in the last 12 matches in all com­pe­ti­tions. It takes their goal tally to 32 on the sea­son, leap-frog­ging New York into the East­ern Con­fer­ence lead.

The win also moves the Union one point be­hind the Red Bulls for the fifth and fi­nal play­off spot in the East.

The Red Bulls (5-6-8, 23 points) threat­ened to tie the game be­fore Le Toux’s tally, but a com­bi­na­tion of MacMath and the as­sis­tant ref­eree pre­vented that. The Red Bulls had the ball in the back of the net in the 64th off a header by Tim Cahill, but the lines­man ruled that Wright-Phillips, from an off­side po­si­tion, in­ter­fered with the play de­spite not touch­ing the ball.

MacMath re­pelled chaos in the box in the 71st, stretch­ing a hand to barely reach Alexan­der’s ef­fort and smoth­er­ing Wright-Phillips’ fol­low from in close. A fol­low by Henry was cleared off the line by Wil­liams.

Five min­utes later, MacMath was in the right place to deny a div­ing header from full­back Am­broise Oy­ongo.

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