For the second time this season the Phildelphia Union (8-6-5, 29 pts, second place Eastern Conference) host the New York Red Bulls (8-9-3, 27 pts, third place) @ Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. The first game was a dramatic 2-1 Union victory in the US Open Cup Quarterfinals back on June 29th. Both teams played on Wednesday when the Union used a younger squad in a Friendly against Crystal Palace, on their pre-season tour, for a 0-0 draw. Their last MLS game was Saturday, handily beating DC United, 3-Nil in Chester. NY ended a 4 game winless streak by beating Orlando City, 2-0 at home.
The Red Bulls will be looking to both get some measure of revenge for the Open Cup loss, but also trying to keep the U out of first place, which they would get with a win. Said NY Goalie Luis Robles “We know it’s a big game to go into Philly. It can be hostile, but it adds to the excitement and the fun of the game. They’re sitting near the top of the table and they had our number during the Open Cup. It’s not quite a rivalry yet because of the vicinity, but there is some hostility towards them and we know that this is an important game, a six-pointer.” Union coach Jim Curtin also played the rivalry theme “It’s a rivalry game, you know our fans don’t like them and their fans don’t like us. The coaching staffs are very familiar with each other. But it’s two really good teams on the field – that needs to be said – fighting for a top spot in the Eastern Conference.”
On Offense the Red Bulls main scorer is Veteran F Bradley Wright-Phillips (20 GP, 18 GS, 9g, 3a). Those 9 goals are 3rd in the league. Red Bulls also have the 2nd most assists in MLS w/ 31, showing their proclivity for passing the ball to set up scores. MF Sacha Kljestan (19 GP, 17 GS, 2g, 10a) has an MLS leading 10 of those, four being game winners. NY’s steadiest defender/midfielder is Sal Zizzo (18GP, 16GS, 0g, 2a) who has also taken 15 shots, 3 on goal.
Only Barnetta for the Union is on a Yellow card warning, and there are no real injuries reported for them so everyone should be available to the Union coaching staff.
Possible Union Starting XI: Andre Blake, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, Brian Carroll, Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho, C.J. Sapong.
Fearless Prediction: This nationally televised – FS1 – rivalry game will have the Sons of Ben and the rest of the crowd Loud and Proud from the start, and the Union coming off the less stressful match on Wednesday, should add to their stellar home record (7-1-2 MLS) by edging the Red Bulls 2-1 as C. J. Sapong scores the game winner early in the second half, and they hold on, to retake first place in the Eastern Conference.