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Bradley Wright-Phillips Takes the Golden Boot as New York Red Bulls Beat the Philadelphia Union

Bradley Wright-Phillips (Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

Bradley Wright-Phillips (Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


On the final day of the Major League Soccer regular season, the New York Red Bulls, unbeaten in 15 matches, headed south to the Philadelphia Union, winless in six. New York had first place and secure passage to the Eastern Conference semifinal booked, while Philadelphia were almost guaranteed a fifth or sixth place finish, meaning a midweek wildcard match away from home was certain. The Red Bulls fielded a strong lineup, while the Union rested a few of their starters. The match leaned in New York’s favor before kickoff, and though it was not always easy, the in-form Red Bulls beat the struggling Union in a day to celebrate for New York.

The match was chippy early on, with New York’s Kemar Lawrence falling to the ground just five minutes after a studs-up challenge by Fabian Herbers that resulted in no punishment from the referee. After several minutes first laying on the grass and then on the sideline getting treatment, he managed to return to the field and finish the match.

The rough nature of the match continued as teams were earning free-kicks, but not much was made of them. After 15 minutes, New York began to take control of the match when they earned two corner kicks. Shots from Dax McCarty, Felipe, and Aurélien Collin attempted to break the deadlock, but the shots were matched by an excellent Andre Blake, much like he did when the teams met three weeks ago at Red Bull Arena.

A goal came nine minutes later, and it was none other than Bradley Wright-Phillips. It was Collin found the league’s leading scorer through a precise long ball, allowing the Englishman to flick it over Blake’s head for the 1-0 lead. The goal, which would be the only one Wright-Phillips scored on the day, would be enough to win him his second Golden Boot in three years. It was Wright-Phillips’ 24th of the season, only 3 behind the league record he leveled in 2014.

The Union attempted to get back into the game, as Roland Alberg attempted a shot in the 31th minute. Luis Robles, like his Union counterpart, made an impressive save after Alex Muyl deflected Alberg’s shot. Philadelphia followed up with a pair of corners four minutes later, but nothing came of them. Another major opportunity came through Muyl for the Red Bulls, who sent a strong shot Blake’s way, but the goalkeeper was up for the challenge. The half ended with New York a goal ahead.

The second half saw the home side start on the front foot, with Alejandro Bedoya’s shot hitting the goalpost just two minutes after the break. But 10 minutes later, it was New York who got on the board again through Muyl. Sacha Kljestan sent the ball to Muyl, who was feet from goal, and through a slight deflection from a Philadelphia player, Muyl found the ball and doubled his team’s lead. Kljestan, one assist away from a historic 20 assist mark that only Carlos Valderrama for the 2000 Tampa Bay Mutiny had reached, was not credited with the assist, and his night ended with no assists.

With 33 minutes on the clock, the Red Bulls had entered the danger zone, as they looked to yet again defend a lead on the road. On only two occasions this year, New York walked out of an away match with three points; on most other occasions, they lost a lead and settled for less points. The tide, though, were with New York. Challenges came from the Philadelphia Union, including a shot from Tranquillo Barnetta that forced Robles into another save in the 82nd minute, but the Red Bulls were able to close out an away lead for only the third time this year for a win on the last day of the regular season.

With momentum on their side, New York begins their playoff run on Sunday, October 30, against the lowest seed remaining in the East, which is yet to be decided.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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