After what seemed like a watershed road win in Orlando last weekend, the New York Red Bulls suffered a stinging home draw against the Philadelphia Union Thursday night in Harrison. Patryk Klimala scored a penalty before Sergio Santos equalized for a 10-man Philadelphia side late.
After a series of delays due to stormy weather left from Tropical Storm Elsa, the match was a testy affair throughout. It was a fixture that multiple Red Bulls players noted is somewhat of a contest for pride as Philadelphia’s own Red Bull-influenced playing style clashes with New York’s. As is often the case, this shared pressing style manifested on Thursday with highly physical play.
New York’s Fabio and Philadelphia’s Kacper Przybylko both traded chances throughout the opening period, but the most notable events of the half came late. Philadelphia right back Olivier Mbaizo and Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood both saw yellow cards for overzealous tackles, with Yearwood’s challenge in front of the Philadelphia bench sparking a several-minute altercation that required the teams to be separated by referees.
The second half opened with the same tone as punches were traded on both sides before the game was broken open by a moment of high drama.
Wiki Carmona, the Venezuelan teen now established as a regular starter for New York, burst forward and, even after losing the handle, didn’t give up on the play and put New York firmly in the driver’s seat. After an errant pass by Philadelphia defender Jakob Glesnes left rookie goalkeeper Matt Freese in no man’s land, Freese awkwardly bearhugged a hustling Carmona. After a moment of confusion was followed by a signal from referee Victor Rivas for a penalty as well as a red card for Freese. After several minutes of stage management as Philadelphia substituted in Joe Bendik to replace Freese, Klimala fired past Bendik to put the Red Bulls up 1-0 and seemingly primed for a fifth straight road victory.
But Gerhard Struber’s young team, which has put such an emphasis on maintaining the intensity needed to close out games, ended up breaking after a series of bends made by the 10-man Union. While the Red Bulls pleaded for a whistle as left back John Tolkin (who would leave the match along with fellow injured defender Amro Tarek) lied hurt on the perimeter of play, a cross from Philadelphia right back Olivier Mbaizo was met by Sergio Santos, who towered over converted Red Bulls center back Tom Edwards to float the ball barely inside the back post for an emphatic Philadelphia equalizer.
The second half would end as choppy as the first. Not wanting to feel left out, the second half also closed out with a prolonged brawl after Tom Edwards and Philadelphia midfielder Jose Martinez tangled in the corner. Yellow cards were issued to New York’s Kyle Duncan and Philadelphia’s Jamiro Monteiro after several minutes of scrapping before the game lilted to a 1-1 finish marking the Red Bulls’ first dropped points at home since May.
Postgame, Gerhard Struber lamented his team’s mentality in the moments after taking the lead. “The feeling right now is not super positive. We are a young team that gives chances to young players and I am obviously not afraid of the future. But against a top experienced side like Philadelphia we need every player at their personal limit and I did not see that.
“I didn’t see the hunger to get the second goal. After the first goal, I saw the team feeling like ‘oh I hope we win’ rather than keep fighting. We did not have the right mindset and Philly felt that. They are an experienced team and they knew how to break up our rhythm by maybe making a foul and we weren’t able to respond to that.”
Fullback Kyle Duncan, who picked up a yellow card in the second half altercation said the team hopes to regroup and “find out where we can get better” in the weeks to come.
For a Red Bulls team coming into more confident form after a faltering start to the season, dropped points at home will sting. While Struber and his team lament the mistakes that sunk them against on the conference’s top sides, they do have an easier task to look forward to as 13th place Inter Miami visits Harrison next weekend.