By: Todd Kurpel
Through four MLS matches this season, the Philadelphia Union (3-1-0) have only managed to score three goals. However, those three goals have translated into three 1-0 victories that puts the Union atop the Eastern Conference standings with nine points. The last of these 1-0 victories came on Saturday, April 9th, when the Union hosted the New York Red Bulls (1-1-2) at PPL Park in Chester, PA.
The lone goal of the match was orchestrated by two second-half substitutions. Danny Mwanga, who came on in the 59th minute for Justin Mapp, intercepted a careless pass by Red Bulls’ defender Tim Ream that set up the scoring opportunity. Mwanga took a few dribbles towards goal, drawing Ream over, and then passed it to his right to a wide-open Roger Torres who drilled home a left footed shot past Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul. Torres’s goal came moments after he entered the game as a substitute for Carlos Ruiz in the 67th minute. The goal was the nineteen year old’s first in MLS play.
The Union’s defense has been the team’s strength in the early season, which continued Saturday night as the Red Bulls controlled possession for much of the match. The Red Bulls looked particularly strong in the first half, and their pressure resulted in five corner kicks. The Union defense held strong, lead by goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, and recorded their third shutout of the young season. The Union also received a bit of luck as Juan Agudelo was denied by woodwork on two attempts in the first half. The three shutouts are one more than the Union recorded all of last season.
The match marked the third meeting in the MLS regular season between the two teams, which is beginning to establish a legitimate rivalry. The two teams split their MLS matches last year, although the Red Bulls eliminated the Union in the US Open Cup. The Union were also knocked out of this year’s US Open Cup competition, as they were eliminated by DC United who won on penalty kicks after the two teams played to a 2-2 draw.
The Union will look to add to their Eastern Conference lead when they host the Seattle Sounders next Saturday. The Red Bulls will look to bounce back when they host the Seattle Sounders, also on Saturday.