US Open Cup Preview: New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Playing their fifth match in fifteen days, the Red Bulls travel down the New Jersey Turnpike to face the Philadelphia Union in the US Open Cup Round of 16.

Jesse Marsch has watched his squad give away five points in the MLS standings over the last week through blown leads at Salt Lake and in Colorado. Last season, the Union’s John McCarthy stoned New York in the Open Cup quarters, advancing in a penalty shootout that included a disputed kick by Lloyd Sam. Philadelphia is a much improved team this season under the watch of new sporting director Earnie Stewart and coach Jim Curtin. The Union lost at home for the first time all season on Saturday (7-1-2 in all comps) and has conceded three goals in each of Philadelphia’s last three matches.

Can New York pick up its third win away from Harrison this year and move on to the quarterfinals?


Match Information

Wednesday, June 29th at Talen Energy Stadium, 7p Kickoff.
Streaming Video: Search YouTube.com for “US Open Cup”
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: TBA

2016 USOC Cup Records:
Philadelphia: d. Harrisburg in 4th round, 3-2
New York: d. Rochester in 4th round, 1-0


Projected Lineups

Philadelphia

PhivNY

New York

NYvPHI


The Union Attack v the New York defense

Chris Pontius vs. Justin Bilyeu, Aurelien Collin, Ronald Zubar, and Sal Zizzo (and Luis Robles)

A Red Bull-killer from his days at DC United, Chris Pontius (6G/4A) is currently the Union’s leading scorer. He has resurrected his career in Philadelphia, as he’s already halfway to his MLS-best 12 tallies in 2012. Pontius scored against Vancouver last time out in a 3-2 home loss. Rookie Bilyeu has played well in both the Open Cup win at Rochester and the loss in Salt Lake, and with Marsch’s squad rotation in full effect, will get the start at left back. Collin, rested from his suspension on the weekend will be in the middle, and Red Bulls fans should feel good about that. New York has only conceded six times in nine matches since he joined the team. The other starter in the center is a toss-up, as Baah has a knock, and both Zubar and Duvall played the full ninety on Saturday. Marsch will go with Zubar.  Despite logging 290 of a possible 360 minutes over the past two weeks, Zizzo rates slightly higher than Duvall at right back. Neither starting would surprise me, though. Robles‘ Open Cup GAA of 0.46 is best in club history for keepers with at least four Cup matches played.

Slight Advantage: Philadelphia


The Red Bulls front line v the Philadelphia back line

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, and Keegan Rosenberry (and Andre Blake)

BWP has played 67-90-23 and 82 minutes since June 15th, notching his ninth of the season in Columbus on Saturday. Might Marsch be tempted to go with Anatole Abang at the start? The young striker failed to impress in 67 forgettable minutes in Utah. The Union defense has been disjointed of late, conceding twelve times in the last five matches. The Brazilian Fabinho (2A) has played 162 minutes since last Wednesday. Richie Marquez (1G) has been a mainstay for the Union in the center this season, making 16 straight starts. Yaro and Rosenberry (1G) were collegiate teammates of the Red Bulls’ Alex Muyl at Georgetown, and Rosenberry has emerged as a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year. However, the duo’s inexperience has led to a few late scares. While the aforementioned McCarthy has had New York’s number, he hasn’t played a minute in MLS this season. Blake (1.44 GAA, 3 SO) will get the nod.

Advantage: New York


Midfielders

Sebastien LeToux, Tranquilo Barnetta, Ronald Alberg, Brian Carroll, and Ilsinho vs. Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sasha Kljestan, Sean Davis, and Lloyd Sam

Bizzaro Kenny Cooper sort-of lookalike Seba LeToux (2G/5A) holds just about all the club records for the Union. Barnetta (2G/2A) has taken the prerequisite half-season to acclimatize to MLS and is starting to produce. Ronald Alberg (5G) has been on Fire for Philadelphia, with five goals in his last three league matches. The Swede won the Union’s fourth-round USOC match with a blazing free kick in injury time. Brian Carroll’s (1G) engine refuses to erode after 359 MLS appearances over fourteen seasons. Ilsinho (1A) has UEFA Champions League experience, and introduced himself to the league by picking up two yellows in his first preseason match this February, against New York. For the Red Bulls, Grella is ahead of Veron on the left, but you will see the Argentine off the bench. Kljestan has played just 83 minutes between matches at Salt Lake and Columbus and should start. Felipe has gone 90-90-86 minutes over the Red Bulls’ last three matches, and will sit in favor of Sean Davis. McCarty just celebrated five years with the club. Lloyd Sam has played less than half of the possible minutes over New York’s last four matches, and is the club’s most rested attacking midfielder.

Advantage: Even


The Coaches

Jim Curtin, formerly the subject of club dismissal, has the Union at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference at the midpoint of the league season. Curtin has a lot of new pieces at his disposal, and so far is making them work well together. He has to figure out a way to tighten up in the back. Jesse Marsch’s five-man backfields have conceded three big goals over the last week.  Marsch will have his team mentally prepared, but can he get the tired legs to give maximum effort in yet another match on short rest?

Advantage: Even 


Intangibles

Wednesday will be the first of at least four matches between the clubs this season. The Red Bulls will return to Talen Energy Park on July 17th and will close the regular season there on October 23rd. The Union visits Red Bull Arena on October first. New York is 10-6-2 all-time against Philadelphia, and is a strong 3-4-1 away. The Red Bulls have won the last two matchups between the clubs, outscoring the Union 7-2 in those games, including Mike Grella’s goal seven seconds into the match last October. However, the Union have been significantly retooled since then. The weather will be as perfect as once can ask for in late June: clear skies and eighty-one degrees at kickoff. The River End should be rocking. New York is bringing 80-100 supporters.

Advantage: Even


Prediction:

New York has been unable to hold a lead. Philadelphia has been leaking goals. Both teams are tired. The Red Bulls have revenge on their minds after last season’s cup loss to the Union. BWP will get the late winner as New York steals an entertaining 3-2 win. Onto the quarters!