HARRISON, N.J.—As far as Jim Curtin was concerned, the Philadelphia Union needed a “real game” like this.
What they did not need was two injuries before the hour mark.
The Union were left wounded and defeated on Saturday night, as they suffered a 3-2 road loss to the New York Red Bulls while having to replace two starters before the hour-mark.
Both center back Joshua Yaro and central midfielder Alejandro Bedoya had to come out of the game after taking blows to the head and rib, respectively. Yaro’s 27th-minute injury was the scarier of the two, as he crumpled to the ground after getting caught in-between leaping teammate Andre Blake and Red Bulls' defender Aurelien Collin on a cross.
“He wasn’t real responsive when he was on the stretcher when I went over to him,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin. “I don’t want to speculate. Hopefully, it’s not anything with his neck or anything too severe.
“He is standing upright and walking around now.”
Soon after, Yaro posted an encouraging note on Twitter:
Thank you all for the texts, tweets and messages...I'm slowly recovering and doing well at the moment.— Joshua Yaro (@Josh_Yaro_5) October 2, 2016
Yaro’s departure was hard for the Union to overcome. Without the rookie on the field, the Union lost some speed on their back line. The Red Bulls realized that quickly, and they got their second goal on a simple ball floated in behind the defense that Bradley Wright-Phillips raced onto and smashed past Blake.
Still, it was the manner in which the Union conceded the game’s other two goals that proved more frustrating. The Red Bulls’ 44th-minute equalizer and 66th-minute game-winner both came on set pieces that ended with an unmarked player firing at goal.
“Disappointing,” Curtin said. “In big games, set pieces are critical. We’ve been a team that’s played pretty well on defending set pieces in terms of statistically how many goals we’ve given up, [which] has been a pretty decent number. But in the biggest spot, in the big game, we came up small.”
If there was a silver lining for the Union in the defeat to the Red Bulls, it was that the game was an example of what is to come. The postseason beckons for Philadelphia, even if they are not officially in just yet, and matches like this tense and testy affair with the Red Bulls will only help prepare for the challenges ahead.
“We’re young,” Curtin said. “For a lot of guys, this is the first time they’re going through what I would call real games, and this is a real game tonight and we came up a little short.”
Midfielder Chris Pontius echoed the sentiment: “That was playoff atmosphere right there. That was the pace of what a playoff game is going to look like.”