Red Bulls Claim First Place in the East in Wild Finish at PPL Park

CHESTER, Pa. – No Thierry Henry? No problem. Even without their leading scorer, the New York Red Bulls offense clicked to the tune of three goals during a nationally-televised showdown Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.

Fueled by a 78th-minute game-winning goal from Kenny Cooper, the Red Bulls escaped Chester with a wild 3-2 victory, taking advantage of being a man up for the entire second half and spoiling a two-goal effort from Philly’s Lionard Pajoy.

New York (7-3-1) has now won four straight while the struggling Union (2-6-1) have dropped three consecutive regular-season games for the first time since their inaugural 2010 season.

The Red Bulls went up a man when Philly’s Freddy Adu was called for his second yellow card – for a simulation in the penalty box in the 43rd minute as he tried to draw a foul after splitting a pair of New York defenders. His first yellow came in the fifth minute for a dangerous tackle.

The ejection was exceptionally poor timing for the Union as Adu had spearheaded what was arguably the club’s best offensive first half of the season. Before he was sent off, the playmaking midfielder aggressively attacked the Red Bulls defense, showcased a full arsenal of dribbling moves and set up many of Philly’s eight corner kicks.

Shortly after dribbling around about four Red Bull players to draw one of the corners, Adu set up Philly’s first goal with a cross that found the head of Pajoy in the 31st minute.

The goal, just Philly’s sixth of the season, ended New York’s shutout streak at 324 minutes.

Pajoy – who for the first time since March was joined by a second striker in the starting lineup (Danny Mwanga) – had two more excellent chances to score in the first half but shot wide on both close-range looks. The Colombian striker also had a turn-and-fire shot that was saved by New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara.

The Red Bulls took advantage of their only shot on frame in the first half, scoring in the 17th minute on a left-footed rocket from Joel Lindpere that beat Union goalie Zac MacMath to the near post. The goal was set up after Mehdi Ballouchy secured possession on a long ball, dribbled toward the corner and passed it back to a streaking Lindpere just inside the box.

Despite going down to 10 men, the Union scored an unlikely goal almost immediately after the second-half kickoff as Pajoy capitalized on a quick change of possession, beat New York defender Markus Holgersson and then deposited a tough-angle shot into the back of the net for his second goal of the game and third of the season.

About 15 minutes later, however, Holgersson got some redemption when he tied the game back up at 2-2, heading a corner kick from Brandon Barklage into the back of the net.

Both teams had other chances to score early in the second half – namely on a Keon Daniel shot from point-blank range that was saved by Meara and a New York run-up that featured a Dane Richards dribbling display and a Juan Agudelo bicycle kick that sailed wide of an open net – but the score remained deadlocked until the 78th minute.

That’s when Cooper’s ninth goal of the season silenced the PPL Park crowd and gave New York a 3-2 lead.

The Union very nearly equalized but Michael Farfan missed the net from about a yard out in the 87th minute and Meara made a remarkable, close-range save on Pajoy in stoppage time.

Philly and New York were playing shorthanded with Henry and Union captain and center back Danny Califf among the absences. Both players have hamstring injuries.

Philadelphia next travels to FC Dallas next Saturday while the Red Bulls head to Montreal.