CHESTER, Pa. -- Union manager Jim Curtin wanted Tranquillo Barnetta’s first Union experience to be a memorable one. Less than a minute into the player’s debut, Curtin’s wish was granted.
“Poor Tranquillo,” Curtin, whose club lost 3-1 to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at PPL Park (see game story), said. “I put him in the game and within 30 seconds he’s on the wrong end of a tough call. That has nothing to do with him, it’s just a freak play. He did everything he could to not touch the guy.”
Scrambling to put out a defensive zone fire, Barnetta, who was introduced as the Union’s latest addition Friday, collided with Red Bulls’ newcomer Shaun Wright-Phillips from behind, drawing the in-box foul call from referee Armando Villarreal.
“It was not really a foul because I was standing behind,” Barnetta said. “He fell down and the ref thought that I hit him. It happens like this sometimes in the game. You can’t change it.”
Seconds after he entered in the match in the 64th minute, the Swiss international and former Schalke 04 standout could only watch as Sacha Kljestan gave the Red Bulls the lead.
That’s about as memorable as a debut gets.
“I guess there is an element of feeling snake bit with the crazy goals that we tend to give up,” Curtin said. “It’s something that we’re trying to fight through.”
But while the penalty will be what many remember from Barnetta’s first MLS match, the playmaker was part of the Union’s lone goal. After grabbing possession in the midfield, Barnetta found Cristian Maidana on the right wing. From there, Maidana played a rocket cross into the box that hit violently off Fernando Aristeguieta and onto the foot of Sebastien Le Toux for the goal.
“It was important and it shows that I can do something to help the team,” Barnetta said. “I don’t want to start like this and I was sorry for the team. But now we have to go on to the next game.”
For Curtin, Barnetta’s helper and possession play was a better indication of what to expect going forward than the clumsy defensive play. The new Union attacking midfielder was also in Vincent Nogueira’s spot — a more defensive midfield role than he’s used to.
“It’s a unique spot for him,” Curtin said. “I think he would be a little bit better up the field but he’s a guy that I’ve said can play in the 10 spot, can play out wide. I thought he had a couple of good plays, you can tell his quality. I’m excited to have him on board.”