HARRISON, N.J. – The Philadelphia Union failed to score any goals in Saturday’s pivotal game against the New York Red Bulls, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence one of their best playmakers was missing in action.
Following the game, Union interim manager John Hackworth revealed that star midfielder Freddy Adu did not make the short trip to Red Bull Arena because of what he called a “team matter.”
Hackworth did not elaborate on what the specific issue was but he did say that Adu should be available for the club’s next game – a home matchup against New England on July 29.
“He’s a fantastic player but he wasn’t here today, so it was an opportunity for other guys to step up,” Hackworth said. “We can debate about whether we missed him or not. We didn’t get the result today so it kind of looks that way.”
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If there is a debate on the topic, the consensus in the Union locker room seemed to be that, while Adu’s absence certainly hurt, it wasn’t the deciding factor in their disappointing 2-0 loss to the rival Red Bulls, a loss that snapped their three-game league winning streak.
“He’s a creative player and he creates a lot of good chances and he puts us through on goal a lot,” Union striker Jack McInerney said. “I think we definitely missed him but we had a lot of other good attacking players who could play in his position.”
Getting the start in Adu’s place up top in the 4-3-3 formation was young striker Josué Martinez, who very nearly made the most of his opportunity. In the 40th minute, Martinez was sprung free by Michael Farfan, but his wide-open shot was saved by New York goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
It was one of the few good scoring chances the Union generated, even though Hackworth was generally pleased with their work in the midfield.
“I thought we did an OK job trying to control tempo and rhythm,” Hackworth said. “We were not so good in the final third. Our last pass eluded as all night.”
The Red Bulls, meanwhile, were able to finish their chances with Kenny Cooper heading home a pair of goals in the win. And even when the Union did find the back of the net – twice from super-sub Antoine Hoppenot – the goals were discounted due to an offside call.
“Maybe on a different day we get those two goals and this game ends 2-2,” a frustrated Hoppenot said.
Or maybe the presence of Adu would have made a difference?
“Yeah, I mean Freddy’s a great player,” Hoppenot said. “Whenever he’s on the field, he creates a lot of opportunities for us. We definitely missed Freddy today. He knows that and he wants to be with us.
“He’ll be with us next weekend and hopefully he can create a few more chances and we can get a few more goals.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.