Juan Pablo Angel is getting plenty of practice from the penalty spot. Angel and Salou Ibrahim scored in the Red Bulls' 2-1 win over their new rival the Philadelphia Union, improving the club's record to 4-1-0, and keeping them atop the Eastern Conference table on 12 points. Angel broke a 1-1 tie in the 67th minute after Union defender Michael Orozco handled the ball in the penalty area. The Colombian smashed the penalty past keeper Chris Seitz for his 3rd goal of the season, all in the past two matches.
The Red Bulls made two changes in their lineup from last week's win over FC Dallas. Carl Robinson started in midfield in place of Seth Stammler, and newly signed Danish winger Brian Nielsen started after just one training session, playing left wing in place of the injured Mac Kandji. The game started out frantically, with both teams creating early pressure. It took one minute for Nielsen to show what he can bring to the table, as he raced down the left side and provided a dangerous cross that was cleared by the Philadelphia defense. The Union could have easily had a couple of goals in the opening minutes. Sebastien LeToux had two opportunites for the visitors, but keeper Bouna Coundoul made a nice save in the 4th minute, while LeToux missed a golden chance wide in the 11th minute. The Frenchman really should have put the Union up. For the Red Bulls, Ibrahim just missed his first MLS goal on a nice strike that just curved high and wide.
But in the 2nd half, Ibrahim would indeed net his first goal in the Red Bulls uniform.In the 51st minute, Ibrahim played the ball out wide to Jeremy Hall on the right side, who set up for the cross. Hall's high, looping cross met the on-charging Ibrahim, who just beat Seitz to the ball, and knocked over a couple Union defenders. Oh, he also knocked the ball into the net with his head, giving the Red Bulls the lead. The lead did not last for long, however, as the Union seemed determined to equalize. New York defender Roy Miller vacated his left back area, leaving Alejandro Moreno all alone. Moreno dribbled into the box and crossed low, where the ball met the foot of LeToux, who slid and knocked the ball into the wide open net in the 59th minute.
The back and forth affair continued, as the Red Bulls were fortunate in the 66th minute. A Red Bulls long ball into the box intended for Angel met the outstretched arm of defender Michael Orozco, prompting official Kevin Stott to point to the spot. Angel, who was 1 for 2 on penalties last week against Dallas' Dario Sala, crushed his shot past Seitz's right side. It was Angel's 3rd goal of the season, and it ended up being the game winner.
A disappointing crowd (in number, not in atmosphere) of 15,619 (it was probably a little less than that) was on hand at Red Bull Arena. Philadelphia's Sons of Ben supporter group was well represented, and the South Ward of the Empire Supporters Club, Garden State Supporters, and La Banda Imperial were rocking all game long. The Sons of Ben may be high in membership numbers, but their "songs" could use some work. And really, turning your back during Red Bull player intro's? Is this High School basketball? Ok, rant over.
Either way you slice it, the Red Bulls are off to an incredible start. Are they destroying everyone in their wake? No. Have they dominated the league's best teams? No. Have they struggled to beat two of the possible worst teams in the league in Dallas and Philadelphia. Yes. But after last year's disaster, for this team to have 12 out of a possible 15 points and be in first in the Eastern Conference is really astounding. The team is also unbeaten at Red Bull Arena, which is a great sign. On top of that, the Red Bulls are prepared to spend some cash after the World Cup, and could bring in two more Designated Players. If they make the right choices in the DP market, New York could have a very successful season ahead of them. On Tuesday, the Red Bulls welcome the Union right back, kicking off the 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Hans Backe said after the match that the side will be mainly reserves, so look out for the Tony Tchani and Conor Chinn show.
We'll have plenty more analysis of the match, with player reactions and highlights from Hans Backe's press conference. Also, head over to Brotherly Game where Kyle has his view on the match.