The opening goal came in the 32nd minute, off a head-scratching gaffe from an experienced goalkeeper in Andre Blake.
Josh Sims, starting his third match and making his fifth appearance for the club, crossed a simple ball into the area, and all Blake had to do was collect it. Instead, he spilled it towards Tom Barlow, who gratefully put away his third MLS goal.
Once again versus Philly, the Red Bulls searched for a knockout punch, while the Union looked for the goal to turn the game on its head. Kemar Lawrence stood out with an important block in the 83rd minute, but he was a man possessed throughout the match, frustrating Union forward Fifa Picault, who only managed one shot.
“That’s my job, to frustrate wingers, and I like that,” Lawrence said. “He’s not going to outrun me ever, so if they want to play in behind, fine, if they want to play to his feet, then I’ll face him up and defend.”
Such was Picault’s frustration that he was often resigned to complaining to the referee, as the Union struggled with only eight shots to the Red Bulls’ 17, only three on goal to the Red Bulls’ seven.
After his mistake, Blake battled hard to keep his team in the match, showing why he is Jamaica’s number one in net with several fabulous diving saves. But, within the six minutes of second half stoppage time, the Red Bulls finally got their knockout goal.
Kaku, who came on as a second half substitute, sprung Bradley Wright-Phillips down the near side, and off to the races the Red Bulls went. Once BWP got inside the area, he crossed to a wide open Daniel Royer. Initially, his first touch failed him, but he was able to catch up to the ball and poke past Blake.
Seconds later, the final whistle sounded, and the Red Bulls secured back to back clean sheet victories for the first time since wins against FC Cincinnati and Real Salt Lake on May 25 and June 1.
“I don’t think the words that I’d start with here will do justice to the work that the guys put in this week, because I think it caps off a really important, big week for us,” Chris Armas said.
“To finish off in a rivalry match with a good Philadelphia team and to shut them out and to win at home, this is a big week. Obviously, we make the playoffs. And, I mean, we’re playing in these last few games better than we have all year in terms of controlling things.”
The Red Bulls can now take a couple days off, before returning to training ahead of the fiercest of rivals in DC United, who just earned a road victory at the Seattle Sounders, meaning a home playoff match is on the line a week from tonight.