IT WAS literally Lionard Pajoy's day in the sun.
Against its most bitter rival, Red Bull New York, the Union finally got the memo that taking advantage of chances is the only way to stay in a match.
No player took that to heart more than Pajoy, who scored two goals to lead the Union, but his day did not result in the shorthanded team acquiring three points for a victory.
Instead, RBNY scored a pair of second-half goals - with the Union playing a man down - to take a 3-2 win Sunday at PPL Park. New York has won four consecutive matches and moved into first place in the Eastern Conference with 22 points. RBNY (7-3-1) overtook Sporting Kansas City (21 points), which lost to Chicago, 2-1, on Saturday.
Pajoy has three MLS goals this season, and has scored three in the last two matches overall. The Colombian import also scored in the Union's 2-1 win against German team Schalke 04 on Wednesday.
Pajoy brought the Union even in the 31st minute, finishing off a beautiful cross from Freddy Adu, similar to the ball Roger Torres provided for Pajoy's first MLS goal against Colorado in Week 2.
That was the highlight for Adu. Working on a yellow card obtained in the sixth minute, he got a second just before halftime, after his stumble in the box was deemed a dive. That forced to Union to play a man down and will mean Adu cannot play in the Union's next match, Saturday at FC Dallas.
"I had a yellow card already, I'm not going to be stupid and try and dive," a frustrated Adu said after the match. "I was actually off-balance and was trying to lift my foot up and plant it in front of [the two defenders], and I just didn't get there. I didn't put my hands up. I wasn't looking for a call, but this referee saw it that way. It's unfortunate because we were having a great game and I feel like I blew it for our team. Playing a man down is always tough and it's one of those things you hope doesn't happen on the account of something you did.''
Pajoy's first goal nullified a rip from Red Bull midfielder Joel Lindpere in the 17th minute.
Less than 1 minute into the second half, Pajoy got his second as a cross from Danny Mwanga took a deflection off RBNY defender Brandon Barklage. Pajoy pounced, RBNY goalkeeper Ryan Meara flinched, and the Union took the lead.
"Whether it's with my head or my feet I am here to score goals," Pajoy recently said. "I know that I can do that and it's what I am trying to prove to the fans every time I step on the field."
Try as the Union (2-6-1, seven points) might in the second half, a game-tying goal was elusive despite numerous chances. The biggest came in stoppage time when a Michael Farfan free kick found Pajoy's feet directly in front of net, but Meara was there to gobble up the chance.
In all, the positives were numerous. The Union finished with 21 attempts on goal, 15 shots inside the box and six from distance. As a result, the team ended with its first multigoal game since a 2-1 win over Seattle last October. The offensive effort improved and Pajoy finally looked as advertised.
"I wouldn't necessarily call this game a letdown," Union defender Sheanon Williams said. "We fought extremely hard, and it's hard when you are down a man for over 45 minutes. We gave them chances and they capitalized on them, but we played our best game of the season and came up short. I take a lot of pride that these guys in the locker room fought hard and battled through."