If you stepped away from this game for just a minute, you would have been justified in thinking the New York Red Bulls dominated the Philadelphia Union tonight.
The Bulls controlled possession for much of the match. Dane Richards and Joel Richards roamed the wings with impunity.
The New York central midfield and backline bottled anything approaching a Union attack. Conversely, the Union’s defense in the middle of the pitch was powerless to stop the Bulls, exemplified by defensive midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi’s woeful evening.
Carlos Ruiz - the lead Philadelphia striker for most of the game - had to settle for long-range shots. His two best attempts came from near midfield.
In contrast, New York forward Juan Agudelo had a number of excellent chances. The next great U.S. striking hope hit the post in the 21st minute and the crossbar in the 30th.
But a few moments was all it took for the Bulls’ night to go horribly wrong.
In the 68th minute, midfielder Teemu Tainio sent an innocuous pass back to defender Tim Ream. The 2010 Rookie of the Year finalist then inexplicably directed the ball straight to Philadelphia’s Danny Mwanga.
Last year’s first overall draft pick did not look this gift horse in the mouth. Mwanga calmly found recent substitution Roger Torres on the right wing, and the young Colombian sailed a shot past New York keeper Bouna Coundoul for his first career MLS goal.
“He’s been working very hard to get in the starting lineup and he just got rewarded for the hard work he put together,” Philly manager Peter Nowak said of Torres after the game. “I think he’s a great example for the young players - when the chance comes you better put it in.”
Philadelphia held on the rest of the way and earned the 1-0 result. Despite being outplayed most of the game, the Union managed their third win - all shutouts - in four games.
Improbably, Philly find themselves in atop the Eastern Conference with 9 points.
Nowak was especially proud of his side considering that many of his starters played in a midweek U.S. Open clash against D.C. United - a match that went all the way to penalty kicks before the Union lost.
“Considering those guys played 120 minutes on Wednesday speaks volumes about the team,” he noted.
The manager was unfazed by suggestions that, despite their wins, the Union have not created many chances in the flow of play.
“What’s the difference if you win 5-0 or 1-0?” Nowak pointed out. “You can string 50 or 100 passes, if it goes nowhere it’s unproductive. Beauty doesn’t count. What counts are the goals and the points. We have nine points, three wins, three shutouts.”
For New York, the match leaves more questions than answers.
Thierry Henry was out of synch with his teammates on the pitch, and had first touches that could charitably be described as mediocre.
New acquisition Dwayne De Rosario had moments of quality, but whiffed on a ball at the top of the box in the 19th minute that could have put the Red Bulls in the drivers’ seat.
The season is still young, but New York has yet to overcome the perception that they have a lot of talent, but not a lot of cohesion.
Keep updated with Major League Soccer by visiting Goal.com's MLS page and joining Goal.com's page.