Preview: New York Red Bulls v Philadelphia Union



After failing to lock up the East on Wednesday in Toronto, New York hosts Philadelphia in the club’s final home game of the regular season.

After a performance that Jesse Marsch said “lacked a lot of urgency, desire, the ability to pick up second balls [and] the ability to fight…,” New York faces a team that’s beaten them twice at Red Bull Arena this year. Can the Red Bulls focus and execute against an opponent that seems to have their number, with so much on the line?


Match Information:

Sunday, October 18th at Red Bull Arena, 3:00p ET kickoff

TV/Streaming: MSG/MSG GO (Optimum subscribers)


Referee: Ismail Elfath

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:

New York: 54 points from 32 matches, 56 GF/41 GA, 1st in the East, 1st in MLS, WLWWL

Toronto: 34 points from 32 matches, 40 GF/51 GA, 9th in the East, 18th in MLS, WLWDL

New York’s front line vs. the Union defense

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Andrew Wenger, Richie Marquez, Steven Vitoria, and Raymond Gaddis (and John McCarthy)

Toronto held BWP on only two shots and none on frame Wednesday night at BMO Field, and with only a single goal over his last six matches, it’s fair to say that New York’s leading scorer is in a slump. The Union is the only team to shut out the Red Bulls in Harrison this season, and kept the New York off the board for 93 minutes in the club’s US Open Cup tie that Philadelphia won in penalty kicks. The Union bunkers very, very effectively. The Philadelphia defense has conceded seven goals over the Union’s last five matches, including a home shutout over Houston. One-time forward Andrew Wenger (1G/2A) has been playing defense this season for the Union. The 6’2” Marquez is finishing his first season in MLS after a season in Harrisburg (USL). Canadian Vitoria nabbed his first MLS goal in a loss to TFC on October 3rd. Raymond Gaddis (1A) is fifth in all-time Philadelphia appearances.  John McCarthy (3-5-3, 1.64 GAA) gave the Red Bulls fits during the Union’s US Open Cup victory in Harrison. McCarthy made nine saves in that match, some of the spectacular variety, to preserve Philadelphia’s chances, and then saved a penalty from Lloyd Sam during the shootout.

Advantage: Even


Philadelphia’s attack vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:

Fernando Aristeguieta vs. Kemar Lawrence, Damien Perrinelle, Karl Ouimette, and Connor Lade (and Luis Robles)

Aristeguieta (5G/1A) has been in and out of Philadelphia’s lineup down the stretch, but has started in the Union’s last two matches, scoring in a surprising 1-1 draw at New England.  The Venezuelan has scored only twice since April. Short of Zubar’s howler in Toronto and Giovinco’s wonder goal, New York’s back line managed TFC well, allowing just seven shots at Robles’ net.  Given Zubar’s horrendous match in Toronto, Marsch will go with Karl Ouimette alongside Damien Perrinelle. Kemar Lawrence, who was managed going forward by Jackson Wednesday night, starts, as does Connor Lade, returning to the right back position for Sal Zizzo. 

Advantage: New York


The Midfields:

Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sasha Kljestan, Felipe and Lloyd Sam vs. CJ Sapong, Vincent Nogueira, Christian Maidana, Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud.

Neither Mike Grella nor Gonzalo Veron was able to generate much penetration or offense at BMO Field, the two combining for three shots and only one on goal. Will Marsch be tempted to start Shaun Wright-Phillips, who opened his MLS account against the Reds, for Grella? Lloyd Sam will surely start on the right. New York outpassed Toronto 425-244 midweek, and the stats may be the same on Sunday.  New York’s midfield triangle will be charged with breaking down the Union’s bunker.  For Philadelphia, CJ Sapong (9G/4A) is having the most productive year of his career, despite starting only 18 times. Sapong scored in the Union’s two-nil win at Red Bull Arena in May.  Nogueria had the other goal in that May Union win, as well as the assist in the Open Cup match. The Frenchman didn’t play when New York took down the Union 3-1 at PPL Park in August. Maidana (1G/15A) is the league leader in assists, and helped on both Union goals in the May match. Brian Carroll is sixth on the all-time MLS appearance list with 344 over a 13-year career. Lahoud has yet to play against New York this year. Swiss DP Tranquilo Barnetta (1G/2A) may see action.

Slight Advantage: New York

The Coaches:

Had Jim Curtin’s squad come through in the US Open Cup final, the longtime Chicago Fire man might feel a bit more confident in his job. Curtin called the Union’s cup win over New York “the biggest in club history,” and wants nothing more than to take it to the Red Bulls once again. Jesse Marsch’s squad has cooled off a bit from the scorching summer form, with only a 3-3-0 record over New York’s last six matches.

Slight Advantage: New York


Should the Red Bulls win, they’ll set a Red Bull Arena record with 12 home victories in a season. New York won 11 times at home in both 2012 and 2013. New York is 6-2-1 all-time against the Union in Harrison, but both of the losses game this year.  Bradley Wright-Phillips leads active Red Bulls scorers with two goals against Philadelphia all-time. The Union has conceded 11 times in the last fifteen minutes of matches this season. Philly’s substitutes Seba Le Toux (5G/3A v NY) and Conor Casey (9G/3A v NY) love to play against the Red Bulls. Sunday’s temperature will be brisk, with clear skies and 50 degrees at kickoff. The match has been selling very well and may sell out.  As long as New York mirrors FC Dallas in results and goals over the final two games of the season, the Shield will return to Harrison. Dallas plays at RSL on Saturday night.

Slight Advantage: New York



New York has proven its inability to break down a bunkering side, and the Union have effectively bunkered and countered twice against the Red Bulls this season. If New York scores first, the match will be a walk. Sunday’s match will be tense from start to end, with the Red Bulls grabbing a late goal by Kljestan to win one-nil and deliver the Eastern Conference to New York.

  • plz win midfield has been lackluster dax needs to show fire both he and sacha need to pass well………zubar needs to bring A game if he does that garbage in the playoffs……

  • MTF

    We have the East clinched. Only DC can catch us on points now, but we have a +16 GD compared to them. We need this win to keep the Supporters’ Shield hopes alive.

    • slowleftarm

      Yes, CCL for us next year. Hopefully they take it more seriously than last time.

  • Andrew Bissonette

    If our central midfield passes the ball well, we will win the game. If they don’t pass well(ex: Wed. vs Toronto), we won’t. It’s really that simple. Philadelphia has nothing to play for so I see them bunkering like they did in the USOC match. That should bode well for us. I see it as 1-0 also, but we’ll hold on for dear life late.