Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Following a big week for the club in which the Red Bulls wrapped up a playoff berth and won Group F in the CONCACAF Champions League, New York can focus on securing a postseason bye with the first of two matches in three weeks against Philadelphia.

The Red Bulls have yet to beat the Union this season, blowing leads in two matches at Talen Energy Stadium, one in the league and the other in the Open Cup. While the Red Bulls’ undefeated run has reached a gaudy seventeen, Jesse Marsch’s crew knows how tough an assignment Saturday night’s match will pose.

Can New York continue its’ push toward a top-two finish in the East?


Match Information

Saturday, October 1st at Red Bull Arena. 7pm ET kickoff

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

Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero

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

New York: 48 points from 31 gms, 53GF/40GA, t-2nd in the East, t-3rd in MLS, WWDDW

Philadelphia: 42 points from 31 gms, 50GF/48GA, 4th in the East, 9th in MLS, WLDLD


Probable Starters

New York

NYvPHI

Philadelphia

PHIvNY


The New York attack vs. the Union back line

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

BWP had his scoring streak snapped at six matches last week by the Montreal Impact. Still, the Golden Boot leader has bagged three goals against the Union, all-time.  The Philadelphia back line has conceded seven times over the club’s current four-match winless streak (0-2-2). Fabinho (4A) has hit his season high is assists since joining the Union in 2013. Richie Marquez (2G) has played the full 90 in Philadelphia’s last thirty regular-season matches. Rookie Ken Tribbett (2G/1A) joined the club from Bethlehem Steel during training camp. Keegan Rosenberry (2G/2A) is on everyone’s short list for Rookie of the Year and will probably lose out to Seattle’s Jordan Morris. Jamaican International keeper Andre Blake didn’t play in the Union’s last bad loss, a 3-0 drubbing by Chicago on September 3rd. Blake’s GAA of 1.48 is good enough for sixteenth in the league.

Advantage: New York


The Philadelphia forward vs. the Red Bulls’ defense

C.J. Sapong vs. Kemar Lawrence, Aurelien Collin, Damien Perrinelle, Chris Duvall, and Luis Robles

The 27 year-old Sapong (7G/2A) hasn’t scored in his last seven matches, and is third on the Union scoring chart. The former SKC man did score in the 2-2 draw in July the last time the two teams played. New York’s defense posted it’s league-leading tenth shutout last week against Montreal, then (albeit with a very different roster) shut out Antigua of Guatemala in CCL play. Kemar Lawrence has yet to register a point in 18 MLS matches this season. Collin and Perrinelle will continue to hold down the center with Ronald Zubar still recovering from sports hernia surgery. Chris Duvall picked up his first assist of the season last week, delivering the ball that Danny Royer converted for the only goal of the victory over Montreal. Luis Robles shut out Montreal and Antigua last week.

Advantage: New York


The Midfields

Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Danny Royer vs. Chris Pontius, Warren Creavalle, Tranquilo Barnetta, Ale Bedoya, and Fabian Herbers

Did Mike Grella show enough in Antigua to earn his starting spot back? I have him in his familiar left-wing position, with Danny Royer on the right. Despite not scoring since June, Grella is still second on the New York goal scoring chart. McCarty, now the all-time leader in franchise minutes played, didn’t travel to Guatemala midweek as he continues to build his match fitness. Kljestan will surely depart after the Philadelphia match to US Men’s National Team camp and matches at Cuba and against New Zealand before returning for the regular season home finale on the 16th. Felipe went the full 90 at Antigua on Tuesday. Royer will look to start a scoring streak against the Union. The Philadelphia attack is driven by its midfield, though the Union have only scored three goals in its last four matches, and hasn’t won any of them. New to the team since Philadelphia last met New York, US International Ale Bedoya (1G) scored his first MLS goal last week in Toronto. Metro-killer and club leading scorer Chris Pontius (11G/5A) has knocked in three of the four goals Philadelphia has collected against the Red Bulls this year. Swiss DP Barnetta (5G/4A) has announced his intention to return to Europe after the season ends, and coach Jim Curtin is hoping his departure is a rallying cry for the Union. Former Dynamo Warren Creavalle (1A) will be charged with limiting Kljestan’s effectiveness. Rookie Fabian Herbers (2G/7A) leads the club in assists.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Coaches

Jesse Marsch has accomplished a major objective for the season: getting out of the CCL group stage. By winning its final two  home matches, his club should lock up a bye for the first round of the playoffs, a massive achievement given the Red Bulls’ start to the season. His club was able to finish last week match without conceding (or taking a two-goal lead for that matter). Jim Curtin will be the second coach in club history to steer the Union into the postseason. Seemingly locked into fourth-place, and with a poor record at Red Bull Arena, Curtin will have his team prepared to wait out New York and attack late, once again.

Slight Advantage: New York


Intangibles

New York is 11-2-2 at home, while the Union is 3-8-5 away from Chester, PA in 2016. The Red Bulls are 7-2-1 against the Union all-time at Red Bull Arena, but since August of 2013, the two teams are an even 2-2-1 in Harrison. Last time the two teams met at RBA, Mike Grella scored seven seconds into the match, setting an MLS record. Saturday’s forecast is for the current raining, drizzly pattern to continue, with temps in the mid-sixties. The slick field may alter the teams’ game plans. Like many home matches this season,, the tickets appear to be well sold, but fans haven’t packed the stadium since the Summer. Perhaps the South Ward will unite to create a tough atmosphere on Saturday. Perhaps.

Advantage: Even


Prediction

Philadelphia will come into Red Bull Arena with a lot of confidence despite their recent issues. Bedoya facing New York for the first time serve as an x-factor, and Pontius will collect his inevitable goal against the Red Bulls. New York will ride the home field to victory on goals by Kljestan and Royer. 2-1 for the Red Bulls, who will inch closer to a first-round bye.