HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls are one of the most difficult teams in MLS to beat at home, and the Philadelphia Union learned the hard way on Saturday.
The Red Bulls improved to 7-0-3 inside of Red Bull Arena this season with a 2-0 victory over the visiting Union, thanks to goals on each side of halftime from a reborn Kenny Cooper (above) and another shutout for goalkeeper Bill Gaudette and the New York defense.
The victory saw the Red Bulls move to 11-5-5 on the year and put them in first place in the Eastern Conference heading into Saturday night's action. It also ended a three-game winning streak for the Union (6-10-2) and gave them their second loss to New York this year.
Both teams began the match playing sloppy, with simple passes intercepted on both sides, especially in the final third. The Red Bulls, however, looked the more dangerous side and they had an early chance from Cooper thwarted by Zac MacMath before Sebastien Le Toux skied the rebound over the cross bar.
The Union, who were without Freddy Adu for the match due to a coach’s decision, also had an opportunity to take the lead late in a first half with few real chances. But Gaudette denied Josue Martinez in the 40th minute after the Union attacker raced by Jonathan Borrajo, who replaced an injured Brandon Barklage in the 16th minute.
That came back to haunt the Union, as Cooper broke the deadlock with his 12th goal of the season and first since May 23 in the 43rd minute. Joel Lindpere fed Connor Lade with a pass down the left, and the rookie out of St. John’s hit a pinpoint cross that Cooper rose to and headed home.
It was déjà vu for the Union not long after halftime. Lade and Thierry Henry combined on the left flank before the Frenchman whipped in a ball that Cooper finished with his head, doubling the lead inside of a rocking Red Bull Arena.
Philadelphia head coach John Hackworth made a trio of substitutions as the visitors searched for an injection of life. But they never found it and New York walked away with their second victory in four days, following 1-0 win over Chicago last Wednesday.
The Red Bulls’ will visit Stade Saputo for the first time in their next match, as they take on the Montreal Impact in their third encounter this season on July 28. New York have won the previous two matches by a combined scored of 7-3.
The Union play host to the New England Revolution at PPL Park on July 29. The clash between the two Eastern Conference foes will be the first of three this year.