CHESTER, Pa. – In front of a national television audience, Bradley Wright-Phillips continued his impressive scoring surge.
Unfortunately for the New York Red Bulls, so did his opponent.
In an Eastern Conference showdown Wednesday night at PPL Park, Wright-Phillips’ league-leading 16th goal of the season wasn’t enough against the Philadelphia Union, who snapped a seven-game home winless streak with a critical 3-1 victory over one of their chief rivals.
Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux and Fred all chipped in with goals for the Union (5-8-7), who scored three times for the fifth time in their last eight league games to snap the Red Bulls’ five-game unbeaten streak.
Fred, who had only logged 99 minutes this season before coming into the game when Cristian Maidana was forced out of action with a first-half injury, was the unlikeliest of Wednesday’s goalscorers.
With the Union clinging to a 1-0 lead, Casey got a nice little touch on the ball to redirect a Sheanon Williams cross and Fred pounced on it to put the Union ahead 2-0 in the 51st minute.
It was Fred’s first MLS goal since 2010 … when he also scored against the Red Bulls at PPL Park.
The Red Bulls (5-5-9) put a scare into the Union nine minutes later when Wright-Phillips scored on Thierry Henry’s league-leading 10th assist. Henry made a simple pass across the edge of the box and Wright-Phillips, given too much space, calmly finished past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath for his 15th goal in the last 12 games and fifth goal in the last four games.
But the Union gave themselves some more breathing room after Maurice Edu was dragged down in the box by Eric Alexander, who was whistled for the 68th-minute penalty on a Union corner kick. Le Toux then converted the spot kick, improving to 11-for-11 in his Union career from the spot.
The Union, who blew a 3-1 lead just four days ago at home against the Rapids, held on thanks in large part to MacMath, who made two huge saves in a wild 70th-minute sequence and then stopped a header from Ambroise Oyongo from close range in the 76th minute.
The Red Bulls also had a Tim Cahill goal called back in the 66th minute when Wright-Phillips was called offside.
For the second straight game, Casey opened the scoring early in the first half for the Union. The 32-year-old forward first controlled a goal kick and sprayed a pass out wide to Andrew Wenger, who played a perfect cross back to Casey.
Casey then undressed New York defender Matt Miazga in the box before beating goalkeeper Luis Robles to his left for his sixth goal in the last six league games. The goal was also Casey’s ninth in 11 career games against the Red Bulls.
Just one minute later, MacMath preserved the Union lead when he stoned Lloyd Sam from point-blank range.
MacMath finished with five saves, while Robles had one.
Both teams return to action Saturday, with the Red Bulls hosting the San Jose Earthquakes and the Union hitting the road to face the Chicago Fire.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Conor Casey||Continued his scoring tear with a nasty move past Matt Miazga and was his usual effective self in terms of passing and hold-up play.|
|2||Zac MacMath||Made several important saves, especially in the second half, that made this victory look more a bit more emphatic than it really was.|
If his teammates had been as sharp and motivated as their captain, RBNY would have traveled home with a point in their pockets.