Harrison, NJ —Philadephia Union manager Jim Curtin must of had a rabbit’s foot in his pocket when he subbed in Sergio Santos for Leon Flach late in the second half of Thursday night game.
With the Union down a man and Flach among the most important players in keeping the Red Bulls’ attack at bay, it just seemed like a odd move.
Curtin went with his gut and it paid off for his club. Twelve minutes after taking the field, Santos jumped high to head Olivier Mbaizo’s cross in off the far post for an 85th-minute equalizer in the Union’s 1-1 tie at the New York Red Bulls in front of an announced crowd of 10, 013.
“We had it in our mind that, at 75 minutes, give Sergio roughly 20 minutes, at least [counting] extra time, to make a play, and he came up and was a beast,” Curtin said.
During most of the contest when Philadelphia was down a man, Curtin made subs to play with one forward to preserve his team’s strength with a four-man midfield. He started to see New York’s players wearing down a bit and decided to step on the gas pedal with two forwards and three midfielders.
“The decision to switch formations, to go 4-2-1-2, which is risky on the road against a good team,” Curtin said, “what’s the difference if you lose 3-0 or 1-0? So we decided to go for it.”
Santos’ high energy attacking style gives Philadelphia the best chance to be competitive going forward. Curtin expects to start the Brazilian in the Union’s next game, against D.C. United at Subaru Park on July 17. With more than a week off, Santos will have enough time to build up his stamina to play for most of the game.
And the Union will need him even more now than they already have, Jamiro Monteiro will be suspended for yellow-card accumulation after drawing a booking amid a last-minute incident in front of the Red Bulls’ bench.
“The grit, the fight, the belief that they showed for the entirety of the 97-plus minutes, I couldn’t be more proud,” Curtin said. “I would have been proud of this team even had we lost this game, to be honest, because of the way that they fought, the way that they played. I would have said we’re going to be just fine if we continue to bring that kind of effort and mentality and play that way.”
Monteiro’s absence will move Dániel Gazdag to the attacking midfield role everyone has been anxiously ready for him to play. We got a glimpse of Gazdag’s potential Thursday night in his short stint as a second forward with Kacper Przybylko.
“He’s getting used to this league and getting acclimated,” Curtin said. “I warned him as much as I could that Red Bull games are chaotic. They’re crazy. He got a full dose of it. You can tell he’s a quality soccer player, and I think people are going to see that sharpness in front of goal is going to come as well.”
The game started slow at the rainy Red Bull Arena. In the second half was where we saw all the action and excitment. Patryk Klimala scored a penalty after Matt Freese held Wikelman Carmona in the box. He received a red card and will miss the next match, but the Union came back despite having 10 men. Sergio Santos had a nice header in off the post past Carlos Coronel to leave Harrison with a point. There were a lot of jawing, pushing, and other scuffles along the way.
Both starting goalkeepers had to come off their line to make close-range saves inside the opening 20 minutes with Coronel denying Gazdag in the eighth minute and Freese getting the better of Klimala on the other end nine minutes later.
“I didn’t see the hunger to get the second goal. After the first goal, I saw the team feeling like ‘oh I hope we win’ rather than keep fighting. We did not have the right mindset and Philly felt that. They are an experienced team and they knew how to break up our rhythm by maybe making a foul and we weren’t able to respond to that.” NY Red Bulls coach Gerhard Struber said.
NYRB: Patryk Klimala — 59′
PHI: Sergio Santos — 85′ (Olivier Mbaizo)
PHI: Olivier Mbaizo — 42′ (foul)
NYRB: Dru Yearwood — 45+ 1′ (foul)
PHI: Matt Freese — 57′ (denial of goal scoring opportunity, red)
PHI: Jamiro Monteiro — 90+7′
NYRB: Kyle Duncan — 90+7′
Matt Freese, Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach (Sergio Santos 73′), Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Daniel Gazdag (Joe Bendik 59′), Kacper Przybylko
Unused Subs: Matt Real, Stuart Findlay, Aurelien Collin, Nate Harriel, Jack McGlynn, Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan
New York Red Bulls
Carlos Coronel, Kyle Duncan, Tom Edwards, Amro Tarek (Mandela Egbo 78′), John Tolkin (Jason Pendant 88′), Cristian Casseres, Dru Yearwood (Frankie Amaya 51′), Sean Davis, Wikelman Carmona (Omar Fernandez 79′), Fabio, Patryk Klimala (Tom Barlow 88′)
- RBNY: Saturday, July 17 vs. Inter Miami CF | 7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ | MLS regular season
- PHI: Saturday, July 17 vs. D.C. United | 7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ | MLS regular season