CHESTER, Pa. – Some credited their fitness. Others credited the fans.
But after rallying from a two-goal deficit in the second half to earn a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night at a sold-out Talen Energy Stadium, most Philadelphia Union players pointed to something even less tangible to explain yet another spirited comeback in a season that’s been full of them.
“I’ve been saying it all year, the belief on this team is unbelievable,” center back Ken Tribbett told MLSsoccer.com. “No matter what the score is at halftime, 60 minutes, 70 minutes, 80, 85 – we believe we can win.”
But Tribbett, who got somewhat of a surprise start in front of Joshua Yaro, pointed out the “team kind of helped me bounce back” from what he admitted was “definitely a mistake,” scoring twice in a two-minute span to tie the game.
“I think maybe you can attribute our fitness,” Tribbett said. “In the first half, they were able to kind of push us. They got tired and we were able to push past it. Maybe our fitness team here has got to us a level where we can really push past teams.”
Fellow defender Keegan Rosenberry, who helped spark the comeback, agreed, calling it “encouraging to everyone that we can do that at the end of the game, even while down a man.” And while the recently named AT&T MLS All-Star admitted the Union were “disappointed” not to get a third goal despite a plethora of chances, he was still pleased to see Sunday’s game follow a similar script to Philly’s 2-1 US Open Cup win over the Red Bulls less than three weeks ago.
“I think in the second half, similar to the Open Cup game, we put the game on our terms,” Rosenberry said. “We pressed them well, we turned them over in good spots and we continued to attack them. When we do that and our pressure is organized as a whole, any team is going to have trouble playing us.”
And, just like in the Open Cup win over the Red Bulls, it was Chris Pontius that fueled the rally, getting taken down in a box to set up C.J. Sapong’s first-ever penalty-kick goal in the 67th minute and then scoring his team-leading seventh goal of the season just a minute later on a ball from rookie sub Fabian Herbers.
Afterwards, head coach Jim Curtin said Pontius “has a way of moving in the box that you can’t teach.” And he praised several other members of the team, especially veteran midfielder Brian Carroll, for what he viewed as a gutsy performance over the final 30 minutes.
“Belief is the word,” Curtin said. “It’s everything. When they walk out on this field, they know they can compete with anybody. We’re a confident team. The guys just keep going, they keep pushing and they get rewarded. I’m really happy with how they responded.”