CHESTER, Pa. – The New York Red Bulls will head into the playoffs with a lot of momentum – and, perhaps, a direct ticket to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
On Saturday at PPL Park, the visiting Red Bulls took care of business, using a brace from Kenny Cooper and a goal from Thierry Henry to rout the rival Philadelphia Union, 3-0, and put themselves in a better position to clinch a top-three seed in the East and avoid the Knockout Round.
The seeding won’t be decided, though, until the results of Saturday afternoon’s Chicago-D.C. United match.
For the Union, a disappointing season ended in very disappointing fashion.
The Red Bulls thoroughly dominated Saturday’s derby match, taking advantage of a mostly lifeless Union squad, especially in the first half.
New York got on the board in the 11th minute when Philly center back Carlos Valdés tripped up Tim Cahill in the box and Cooper drilled the ensuing penalty kick into the bottom corner. It was the second time in the past three games Valdés has been whistled for a penalty in the box.
In the 35th minute, Valdés was victimized again when a streaking Henry turned him around and then beat Union goalie Zac MacMath to score his 15th of the year and put New York up 2-0. The play was set up after a giveaway from Union midfielder Michael Lahoud, who was replaced at halftime in favor of rookie striker Antoine Hoppenot.
The Union had a couple of chances in the first half, mostly from leading scorer Jack McInerney, who was dispossessed from behind by Markus Holgersson in the 19th minute on a breakaway. Keon Daniel later got numbers forward before giving the ball away.
MacMath who finished his first full season as a starter with eight shutouts, kept the game from getting even more out of hand when he took the ball off the foot of a streaking Henry in the 25th minute.
But things got even worse for the Union in the second half. Pushing numbers forward to try to get back into the match, they left themselves exposed. And Cooper took advantage of their three-man backline to score his second goal of the day in the 57th minute.
It was Cooper’s 18th goal of the season – and fifth against the Union.
In the 72nd minute, Brian Carroll nearly got the Union on the board but his header hit side netting. A minute after that, Danny Cruz shot just wide after a feed from second-half sub Roger Torres. In the 89th minute, a last-ditch, wide-open shot from McInerney went wide as New York goalkeeper Luis Robles escaped with his second shutout in four starts this year.
A year after making the playoffs, the Union finished the 2012 season with a 10-18-6 overall record, similar to the 8-15-7 mark from their expansion season. New York finished 16-9-9 on 57 points.