CHESTER — For too many years, games between the similar playing styles of New York Red Bulls and Union have been joyless slogs.
Sunday’s meeting, while not quite of the standard of the beautiful game, was at least fun chaos. The Union extended an unbeaten run to 12 games over their rivals to the north, with three Kai Wagner assists and three second-half goals leading to a 4-1 victory.
The game changed when Red Bulls center back Sean Nealis was shown a second yellow card in the 44th minute, with the game even at one after Jakob Glesnes cancelled out an Omir Fernandez strike.
The Union punished the Red Bulls quickly. They had the ball in the back of the net before halftime, only the offside flag sparing the visitors, before Damion Lowe and Julian Carranza scored in back-to-back minutes early in the second half.
Lowe’s goal was the second off a set piece for the Union, this one directly from a free kick swerved in by Wagner. He also set up Carranza’s goal, when he hustled to keep alive an overhit Alejandro Bedoya cross and squared to Carranza to thunder home a left-footed side volley.
Daniel Gazdag added on in the 76th minute of a long Wagner ball forward, though he came off injured afterward, having nursed a knee issue most of the last month. It’s his 18th goal in all competitions this season, though just the third from open play.
The Union (14-8-4, 46 points) rise to fourth in the East, one point behind both New England and Orlando, though they hold the wins tiebreaker over both. They also are unbeaten in the last 12 games against Red Bulls (8-0-4) in all competitions.
The win is the Union’s 18th in their last 21 home games. Sunday began a stretch where six of the Union’s final nine games are at Subaru Park.
Off a setback in Toronto midweek, Jim Curtin crafted a midfield with what few pieces he had. A pelvic injury to Leon Flach and the suspensions of Jesus Bueno and Jose Martinez left Jack McGlynn and Bedoya as his only two remotely defensive midfielders. That meant a 3-5-2, with Lowe drafted in for the first time since the Leagues Cup semifinal against Inter Miami, to provide solidity up the middle. Luckily, the helter-skelter play largely bypassed any semblance of midfield passing anyway.
It didn’t help them stay compact in the 11th. Center back Andres Reyes strode forward in possession to the edge of the 18-yard box and squared a ball that found Fernandez. Lowe got low to block Fernandez’s first effort, but the rebound came back to Fernandez to bury it past Andre Blake, still diving to the other side of the net in tracking the first attempt.
It’s Fernandez’s team-leading sixth goal in all competitions. The concession means the Union have only kept three clean sheets in 12 games in all competitions, after a stretch from May to June in which they allowed just two goals in a seven-game span of league play.
The Union got a fortunate bounce in the 29th to level the game. Carlos Coronel’s swat at a free kick got tangled in the mass of bodies in his six-yard box. It sat up for Glesnes to put his foot through and into the net.
The demolition derby brand of counterpressing claimed its first victim in the 44th. Nealis’ first yellow was a no-doubter, for grabbing back Gazdag after the midfielder had spun past him near the center circle in the 6th. His marching orders came on a handball while locked up against Mikael Uhre, and while it was a handball, the second yellow was harsh.
The Union thought they’d gone ahead on the stroke of halftime when Uhre redirected a Bedoya ball into the path of Carranza to finish. But video review confirmed the play was offside.
Coronel made the best save of the first half when he got a hand low to deny a 20th-minute backheel flick attempt by Uhre. Coronel, the former Union player, got his first international call-up this week, to join Paraguay for World Cup qualifiers during the international break.
Goals aside, the game transformed in the 48th minute thanks to Blake. The Red Bulls launched a hallmark counter, getting a numerical advantage into the final third. Fernandez was left 1-v-1 with Blake from 14 yards out, but the Union goalie got a strong hand up to paddle the shot away.
The lopsided margin brought the first MLS minutes for Tai Baribo, subbed on in the 72nd, and Homegrown Jeremy Rafanello, brought on for Gazdag in the 78th.
Source: Berkshire mont