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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
In yet another unfortunate instance where the Union were lucky enough to salvage a point in what could’ve easily been a loss, things ended 1-1 against the Red Bulls in north Jersey. In a fitting string of unfortunate events for matchweek 13, there was a rain delay, a goalkeeper red card, and Daniel Gazdag starting over Sergio Santos. Let’s recap.
A lightning delay saw the game start a half hour later than originally planned, but the Union had some positive looks at the goal in the early minutes of the game. Leon Flach found Gazdag, who made a dangerous shot on target, but Red Bulls goalie Carlos Miguel Coronel was able to make the save.
Although it was nerve-wracking to a nauseating extent to see someone other than Andre Blake (who is unavailable for selection due to an international call-up from the Jamaican national team) starting in goal, Homegrown Matt Freese made a Blake-worthy save in knocking away a Patryk Klimala shot in the box.
Jamiro Monteiro soon showed up to the party, notching a shot on goal after suffering a brutal tackle from NYRB defender Dru Yearwood. However, the shot was cleared, and the two teams went into halftime scoreless.
Monteiro and Gazdag started off the second half on a positive note for the Boys In Blue, both putting pressure on and finding their way through the Red Bulls’ defense, but neither was able to find the back of the net. Monteiro attempted to curl the ball in from outside the box, while Gazdag’s header from a Union free kick just missed the net.
However, because Union fans can’t have nice things lately, such a promising start to the second half could only mean that things would go downhill…and downhill they went.
In the 57th minute, Freese earned himself a straight red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. While marking the Red Bulls’ Wikelman Carmona center-back Jakob Glesnes lightly passed back to give the ball to his goalie. Carmona naturally chased after the gentle touch, and instead of focusing on clearing the ball, Freese wrapped his arms around Carmona to deal with the offensive pressure instead.
Down to ten men, the Union went down 1-0 after Klimala easily sent Freese’s replacement, Joe Bendik, the wrong way on his penalty shot.
Jim Curtin was obviously pressed for attacking options, having to take off Gazdag in order to Bendik in front of the goal, but a Santos substitution proved to save the day. In the 85th minute of play, Olivier Mbaizo played a perfectly hit ball to where Santos was waiting in the box, and the Brazilian’s spot-on header made it past Coronel and put the Union level.
Man of the Match: One can’t help but wonder if the Union could’ve pulled out a win if Santos had started alongside Kacper Przybylko in what was seemingly looking like Curtin’s preferred striker pairing. All Union fans will be able to do is wonder, and be thankful for Santos’ late heroics to salvage a point and keep the Union in the top three of the Eastern Conference.
The Main Takeaway: It’s nice to see that the team doesn’t absolutely need Blake in order to get positive results, but it does make you appreciate the Jamaican’s sheer talent in front of the net. With Freese now suspended for at least the next match, and Bendik having no consistent runs in the first team to gauge his ability in MLS games, the back four are going to have to seriously be on their A-game until Blake returns from international duty.