Red Bulls right defender Sal Zizzo couldn't keep up with the Union's Chris Pontius.

Not three weeks ago when Pontius scored two goals and not Sunday night when he scored one and drew a penalty kick that resulted in another.

In both games, Pontius torched the Red Bulls defense by being in the right spot at the right time and capitalizing on the Red Bulls' mishaps on the back side of their defense.

Defenders "are late, and they are asleep, and they don't see that Chris is running," Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. "Then all of a sudden Chris has tap-ins. It's as easy as can be for him."

After falling behind, 2-0, the Union (8-6-6) salvaged a 2-2 tie on Sunday night at Talen Energy Stadium. The draw allowed them to remain in second place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind New York City FC.

Pontius was again at the center of it all against the Red Bulls. He recorded six of the Union's 16 shots and three of their eight shots on target. The eight-year Major League Soccer veteran leads the Union with seven goals this season.

"He's a guy that's been through the battles in MLS," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "He's an excellent winger. He's one of the top in the league."

On June 29 against the Red Bulls, Pontius scored two second-half goals to lead the Union to a 2-1 win.

In the 65th minute Sunday night, Union defender Keegan Rosenberry swung in a cross from the right sideline about 25 yards from the goal. Pontius was a step in front of Zizzo and could have buried a shot from six yards out, but Zizzo pushed him down from behind, leading to a penalty-kick goal.

Two minutes later, Fabian Herbers sent the ball on the ground across the mouth of the net. C.J. Sapong attracted the attention of the center defender, and Pontius was open on the back post. The ball rolled past Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles and Pontius was wide open from just a foot or two away.

"If you're 'on' on the night and your through balls are good, then you can pick them apart," Pontius said. "If you're not, then you can run into some trouble like we did in the first half. . . . Second half tends to open up against them, and there's more room to play."

The Union were forced to play with 10 players after an Ilsinho red card in the 72nd minute, but Pontius kept the pressure on, as evidenced by his three shots in the final 21 minutes.

But by then, the damage was already done. Pontius played a major role inside the Red Bulls' box and contributed on the two goals.

"He's got a knack around the goal," Curtin said. "He's got a way of moving in the box that you can't teach, I can't coach. Some players have it. Some players don't, and he has a way of arriving in the box at the right time."

pschwedelson@philly.com