Drilling down on: New York 3, at Philadelphia 0

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Man of the Match: How much does Dax McCarty’s energy bring to the Red Bulls? His work throughout the midfield is immeasurable. McCarty’s starting positions were nominally on the right of New York’s 4-4-2, but he was all over the place, poking away balls and adding pressure in the right spots on defense, and then always motoring into good positions in the final third when the Red Bulls took possession. He had a big part in two New York goals.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Mission accomplished for New York, who temporarily moved into second place in the East pending today’s result from Chicago. In all likelihood, the Red Bulls have moved out of that opening round, 4th-vs.-5th match, which was the day’s primary objective.
  • The Red Bulls keep talking about high pressure and the need for more of it. It took 32 games, but they’ve finally gotten it right. Last week against Kansas City and then Saturday at PPL Park, they pressed high and as a unit.
  • The net effect is that New York players are already in good, advanced positions when they take possession in midfield.  That makes Thierry Henry more effective, since he receives the ball in higher positions rather than drifting back and then acting more often as a linking man.
  • Henry had a strong afternoon, contributing on both sides of the ball. He looks like a man on a mission.
  • A pretty shockingly poor afternoon from the usually steady Carlos Valdes. The Union’s Colombian international center back lost the plot in this one. He gave away one penalty kick, probably should have been whistled for another when he wrestled with and then threw Kenny Cooper to the ground, and he looked fairly inept as Thierry Henry maneuvered around him with ease for the visitor’s second goal.
  • The Red Bulls back line wasn’t perfect, although Rafa Marquez had a nice match, almost always in the right spot and helping himself a lot with shrewd reads on the unfolding sequences. On the other hand, Jack McInerney was finding too many gaps along a back line that sometimes wasn’t as compact as it needed to be. Speaking of McInerney …
  • At the top and bottom of his lineup, John Hackworth has reason to like what he has. Young goalkeeper Zac MacMath, 21 years old, started 2012 with stumbles aplenty. But the back half has been fairly smooth, and he will remember Saturday’s season finale as a good afternoon of sure-handed, composed work. And at the other end of the field, McInerney, just 20, finished with a flourish.
  • He constantly troubled Red Bulls center back Markus Holgersson, and found good spots near New York’s goal. Finishing with four goals in the Union’s final six matches should send the young striker into 2013 awash in confidence.
  • With a tactical switch and more energy from the home team, lots of it supplied by halftime replacement Antoine Hoppenot, the Union began finding playmaker Michael Farfan and taking control in midfield, putting the Red Bulls under real pressure for the first time all afternoon. For 20 minutes after the break, the Red Bulls ability to take all three points seemed suddenly in doubt. But Cooper’s second goal of the afternoon took all the air out of the game.
  • Freddy Adu? Not in the 18 for Philadelphia. Again.
  • Philadelphia average starting age Saturday: 24.7.

(MORE: Time running out for Freddy Adu)