Preview: New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

New York finishes its brutal run of 10 matches in 32 days Sunday in Chester, Pennsylvania, when the Red Bulls kick off the first of three league matches against the Philadelphia Union that will surely dictate playoff matchups for the postseason.

The Red Bulls went into halftime of the teams’ Open Cup tie just 19 days ago feeling confident with a one-nil lead.  After the break, the Union hit back hard with two Chris Pontius goals and dominating play that knocked New York out of the tournament. The result also sent a clear message that the Union are indeed contenders in this year’s Eastern Conference.

Finally at the end of a tough schedule, can the Red Bulls send a message of their own?


Match Information

Sunday, July 17th at Talen Energy Stadium, 7p Kickoff.
TV/Streaming: Fox Sports 1/Fox Sports Go
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Alan Kelly

Record: GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form

Philadelphia: 29 points from 19 gms, 32GF/26GA, 2nd in the East, t4th in MLS, LWLLW

New York: 27 points from 20 gms, 30GF/25GA, 3rd in the East, 9th in MLS, LDLDW


Projected Lineups

Philadelphia

PHIvNY

New York

NYvPHI


The Union Attack v the New York defense

C.J. Sapong vs. Connor Lade, Aurelien Collin, Damien Perrinelle, Sal Zizzo, and Luis Robles

Sapong (5G/2A) is a pacey striker who’s gone cold, having last scored on May 14th. Marsch rotated the right side of his defense to positive effect on Wednesday, posting a shutout with Ronald Zubar and Chris Duvall back in his preferred slot at right back. On Sunday, the Red Bulls coach will mix it up once again, with Perrinelle and Sal Zizzo getting the nod. For Perrinelle, it’s a chance to post his first 90-minute appearance of the season. Goal-scoring hero Connor Lade (1G) will put his first MLS tally behind him and focus on the task at hand. New York has conceded only six times in eleven league matches since Collin joined the team. Luis Robles is now the all-time franchise leader in league appearances (126), wins (58), and shutouts (35) as well as the lowest GAA for New York keepers with more than 50 starts (1.29).

Advantage: New York


The Red Bulls front line v the Philadelphia back line

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron vs. Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett, Keegan Rosenberry, and Andre Blake)

Given the Red Bulls’ second half at Philadelphia in the cup, Marsch may be tempted to go with the “Plan B” 4-2-2-2 lineup, pushing Veron up top with Bradley Wright-Phillips. Neither of two strikers have found the net as of late, but Veron did add a quick spark late in the Open Cup loss and may be the x-factor for New York. The Union defense shut out DC United last week, three-nil. The only face the Red Bulls didn’t see last month is Union rookie Ken Tribbett (1G/1A). Signed early to Bethlehem Steel of the USL, the 6′ 2″ Tribbett impressed in training camp and was immediately pushed to the big club.  Rosenberry (1G) is running neck and neck with Seattle’ Jordan Morris in the Rookie of the Year race. Blake has only conceded one in the Union’s last two matches, an improvement over the prior three, when the Jamaican international allow three in each contest.

Advantage: Philadelphia


Midfielders

Chris Pontius, Tranquilo Barnetta, Ronald Alberg, Brian Carroll, and Ilsinho vs. Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Felipe, and Sasha Kljestan

It’s no surprise to find Chris Pontius (6G/4A) in Philadelphia’s starting lineup. The former DC striker has scored seven times against New York in his career, including both goals in his club’s 2-1 Open Cup win last month. Barnetta (2G/2A) played for years in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke. Alberg (6G/1A) had a goal and an assist in the win over DCU last week. Brian Carroll has been playing against New York team since the team was known as the MetroStars. That’s a really long time. Brazilian Ilsinho (2G/1A) scored his first two MLS goals in the Union’s victory last week. New York’s challenge with the Plan B formation is not conceding too much possession in the middle of the park with Sacha Kljestan (2G/10A) pushed to the right. The MLS assist leader got a deserved night off in Wednesday’s two-nil victory over Orlando. Felipe (4G/3A) has four bombs from outside the penalty area this season, two more than anyone else in the league. Grella (6G/3A) did his best on Wednesday to avoid Orlando’s double team. McCarty (2G/2A) will have his hands full trying to negate attacks without a central midfielder in front of him.

Slight Advantage: Philadelphia


The Coaches

Jim Curtin continues to impress this season, keeping his club in contention for a first-round playoff bye. He rotated his squad in a midweek friendly against Crystal Palace, a scoreless draw in which Andre Blake took the night off and all of his started played a half. Curtin made the right adjustments in the Open Cup match to flip the momentum and result to the Union. Jesse Marsch got a solid two-nil victory over a poor Orlando side on Wednesday. He needs his team to execute better during the run of open play and rely a little less on set pieces. That said, he’s got to be overjoyed that the midweek matches are behind him until the start of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Advantage: Even 


Intangibles

The Union are 7-1-2 at home. New York’s only road win this season was the Red Bull Wedding (1-7-2 away from Harrison). New York had the better of the season series between the clubs in the early days of this budding rivalry, but the Union have taken three of the last five contests, including Open Cup matches in the past two seasons.  With a win, the Union can take back-to-back matches against the Red Bulls in Philadelphia for the first time since April 2011. There should be a sizeable contingent of traveling New York support for the match. Sunday’s forecast is hot and sticky, with mid-day thunderstorms, temps in the upper eighties, and humidity as high as sixty percent. BWP and Mike Grella lead all current Red Bulls with three all-time goals against the Union

Advantage: Philadelphia


Prediction:

The Union have won seven of their last ten road matches, and are brimming with confidence. The Red Bulls are coming off two matches per week for the last five weeks. Even with the rest for Kljestan, Perrinelle, and Zizzo, this team is tired. A 1-1 draw is a best-case scenario. A loss wouldn’t surprise.