Preview: New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

IMAGE, NEWYORKREDBULLS.COM

By MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Three months to the day after New York picked up its first win of the season against Philadelphia, the Red Bulls sidle down 95 to play the Union at PPL Park. 

While New York has quite a bit to feel good about, including a five match unbeaten run (RBNY’s longest of the season), a masterful performance by Thierry Henry, and the return of Dax McCarty to the lineup, the Red Bulls need to tighten up on defense — and right away.  The Union have scored three goals in five of their last seven matches, and while they can’t keep the ball from going in their own net (33 GA this season, second worst in MLS), New York’s young back line will be tested frequently in Chester, PA.

Match Information:
Wednesday, July 16th at PPL Park, 7:00p ET kickoff, TV: ESPN2

Referee: Baldomero Toledo

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Philadelphia, 19 points from 19 matches, 29 GF/33 GA, 7th in the East, 15th in MLS, WDWLD
New York, 23 points from 18 matches, 30 GF/27 GA, t4th in the East, t10th in MLS, DWDDW

The Union front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:

Conor Casey vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Jamison Olave, Matt Miazga, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
As last week, the Union played a 4-5-1, with Casey alone up top. Red Bulls fans know that the Union striker (3 goals against New York in 2013) simply loves to play the New York.  Casey has five tallies for the Union this season, and they’ve all come in Philadelphia’s last five matches.   Yes, Matt Miazga calmly and professionally admitted his mistake last week that led to the Crew’s lone goal, and yes, Miazga has received loads of praise from the RBNY community for his maturity at such a young age (he turns 19 on Saturday).  If New York is to get maximum points in the next two matches, however, he simply cannot err as he did with a lead last week.  Petke has challenged Olave to become more of a leader with his young back line. It’s too soon to say if Olave’s up for it.  Oyongo continued to dazzle with his footwork, and Duvall continues to connect well, though his crosses leave room for improvement. Despite Columbus’ pressure on Saturday, Robles only had to make three saves.
Advantage: Even

New York’s attackers vs. the Philadelphia defense:

Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Philips vs. Fabinho, Sheanon Williams, Maurice Edu,and Raymon Gaddis  (and Zac McMath).
Thierry Henry turned in one of his most complete performances in a Red Bulls uniform last week vs. Columbus. With a goal and three assists, the MLS Player of the Week got angry, and then took it out on the opposition.  Henry has three of the last five New York goals against the Union, including the first strike in RBNY’s 2-1 home win vs. Philly on April 16th.  All BWP does is score goals.  A bit was made this week over the notion that the Englishman, despite his league-leading 15 tallies might not make the MLS All-Star team, which would be a crime.  The Union defense has conceded eight goals in the club’s last five matches, and blew a 3-1 lead last week in the final ten minutes against Colorado in Chester.  Gaddis assisted on Casey’s opening goal against the Rapids, and Williams scored the Union’s second tally. Fabinho has played every minute of the Union’s last six matches.  Edu, coming back from suspension, has been shifted to centerback from midfield by new Philly manager Jim Curtin. MacMath has a 1.74 GAA, which is just not good enough at this level.
Advantage: New York

The Midfields:

Danny Cruz, Brian Carroll, Sebastien LeToux, Victor Nogueira, and Christian Maidana v Eric Alexander, Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam.
There’s a ton of talent in the Philly midfield, with former Red Bull LeToux (6G/2A) and newcomer Argentine Maidana (2G/8A ) having lots of success in the first half of the season. With both Michael Lahoud and Amobi Okugo picking up red cards against Colorado, veterans Carroll and Nogueira (listed as questionable after suffering a groin strain) get the call in front of the Union back line. Cruz (2G/1A) is on track for his most productive season as a pro.  Surely the Red Bulls looked a bit more composed against the Crew when Dax McCarty came on for the final half hour.  Hopefully he’ll be able to go the full ninety against some very dangerous opposition in his work area.  Alexander, with a goal and as assist on Saturday, continues to have a very fine season.  Against the Crew, Sam scored his first goal in 11 matches, and could have had two if a chance had hit the net and not the post.  Cahill was a non-factor last week, unleashing only a single shot in his second ninety-minute appearance since returning from the World Cup. 
Advantage: Even

The Coaches:

Jim Curtin, who used to terrorize New York during his playing days with the Fire, was promoted from assistant coach to head coach after John Hackworth was let go on June 12th. Under Curtin, Philadelphia has a modest 1-1-1 record, but in order to get the Union’s house in order, the former defender must find a way to stop leaking goals.  Mike Petke can surely take credit for Saturday’s victory, especially calming down his young centerback after he made a costly mistake, but it was Henry’s fury-filled tirade that truly motivated the team to the win.  With Peguy not available for personal reasons this week, and Steele but a memory, the New York coach must pull the right strings if the Red Bulls are to win their second straight. 
Advantage: New York (on experience points)

Intangibles:

The Union has won only a single match at home this season, on March 15th against New England.  Philadelphia is 0-2-5 at PPL Park since.  New York has played well at Philadelphia during the Union’s short tenure in the league (2-3-0).  The Red Bulls have two four-match and the current five-match unbeaten streak this season.  They’ve only picked up points during those streaks. The Red Bulls have only a single two-match winning streak this season (wins over PHI 2-1 and HOU 4-0 in April).  Temperature at kickoff is forecast at 79 degrees with zero percent change of precipitation.  There should be a small but vocal group of traveling supporters at the match.
Advantage: New York

Prediction:

The Red Bulls are on one of those stretches that will determine playoff positioning, considering how challenging September will be with Concacaf Champions League matches.  With two matches this week against teams that are below New York in the standings, and coming off an incredible performance by Henry, the time should be ripe for a Red Bulls win.  The Union, though, gave two points away last week at home, and will be desperate to win at PPL for the first time since winter.  LeToux and Casey in particular like to stick it to New York, and Philly has had no problem scoring goals.  With both of the backlines out of sync, I like the Red Bulls in a shootout.  It’ll be a 4-2 New York win.