HARRISON, N.J. – On Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, Conor Casey scored his first goal of the season.
Unfortunately for the Union, another well-known MLS striker did the same.
And it was that goal from Thierry Henry that sent the New York Red Bulls to a 2-1 win over Casey and the Union, extending Philly’s frustrating drought at Red Bull Arena in the process.
The Union remain winless in New York’s home stadium in all five games they’ve ever played there.
“I’m not going to say this is a hard place to play,” Union right back Sheanon Williams said. “They’re a good team. They played better than us. And they won the game.”
Following Casey’s goal, it looked like the Union might be able to sneak away with their first-ever point at Red Bull Arena.
But Henry, who was nursing an MCL sprain and didn’t enter Saturday’s match until early in the second half, settled a cross from Peguy Luyindula on his thigh, turned and fired a shot into the corner of the net to give New York a 2-1 lead in the 81st minute.
Not long before that, Henry nearly scored on a stunning bicycle kick, drawing a standing ovation from the Red Bull crowd even though the shot missed the net.
Those are the kind of game-changing plays the world-renowned French striker can make – and it was his offensive ability that allowed the Red Bulls (1-2-2) to win their first game of the season.
The Union, meanwhile, dropped to 2-2 and saw their modest two-game winning streak snapped.
“I knew Thierry was going to play,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said. “I just didn’t know exactly what the best situation was for him – starting or coming in at the end.”
Two minutes after Henry was brought into the game, Hackworth inserted two offensive subs of his own in Casey and Antoine Hoppenot.
The move immediately paid big dividends as Casey headed in one of Sheanon Williams’ patented long throw-ins to tie the game at 1-1 in the 63rd minute.
Prior to Saturday’s game, Casey had played just six total minutes in three games because of a hamstring injury.
“It’s nice to be back out there after being out the first few weeks,” said Casey, who came over to the Union in the offseason after establishing himself as one of the league’s best goal-scorers in Colorado. “And it’s always nice to score your first goal. That’s a good feeling. But we came here to try to get three points and we weren’t successful, so that’s disappointing.”
Eight minutes before Casey’s goal, the Red Bulls struck first when Dax McCarty stuck his foot onto a Jonny Steele cross and the ball deflected off the post and in.
With the Union trailing by a 1-0 margin, Hackworth didn’t hesitate to bring in both Casey and Hoppenot at the same time, even if that may have hurt the team in the midfield.
“We’re going to be attack-oriented,” the Union manager said. “We’re going to go for wins on the road. That’s what we tried to do. Unfortunately, we fell behind before we made a couple changes there. It’s a frustrating loss.”
In reality, the Union were probably fortunate not to fall behind sooner.
Despite stringing more quality passes together than they did in their first three games, the Union didn’t generate many good scoring chances and were back on their heels toward the end of the first half.
Steele had two terrific chances to score before halftime, but went wide with a blast in the 22nd minute and hit a close-range shot just over the bar 20 minutes later.
And in the 80th minute, Union goalie Zac MacMath made a huge save on Steele to preserve the tie – at least for a few more moments.
“We have to do a better job,” Hackworth said. “We can play better. We did what we needed to do in the first half. But we didn’t execute the way we’re capable of at all. And that’s really frustrating.”
Hackworth was critical of his team in other ways, pointing to senseless turnovers and missed opportunities to control the possession.
But some players on the team had more positive things to say, with midfielder Danny Cruz noting that the team is still in good shape record-wise heading into next Saturday’s game in Columbus and MacMath praising his team’s performance for much of the afternoon.
And the Union goalie believes the Red Bulls’ five-game winning streak over Philly will soon end.
“I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t win here or win against [the Red Bulls] in general,” MacMath said. “This was one of the best games since I’ve been to Philly that we’ve played against them. I think we can build on this one, and hopefully the next time we play them we’ll grab all three points.”