The Philadelphia Union will travel to Harrison, NJ on Sunday to take on the hated New York Red Bulls in a nationally televised match.
This is an important game for NYRB. They are just above the playoff red line, with 41 points after 27 games played. They have a five-point lead over the Montreal Impact, and they’ll want to keep that distance from them in the table with seven matches to go. And they have to be licking their chops as the 10th place Union come in, a team that has a pathetic 1-8-5 road record.
This is a pretty important match for the Union too. The Union are nine points below the 6th place Red Bulls, and if they are to have any hope of scratching their way into the playoffs, they need to find a way to overcome their road woes and come home with the full three points.
These are two teams who know each other well, as this is the fourth meeting in 2017. They split their two MLS matches so far, and their last meeting saw the Red Bulls eliminate the Union from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in a penalty kick shootout at the end of the game.
The boys in blue will welcome back Alejandro Bedoya, who sat out last week’s match against Minnesota United FC due to yellow card accumulation. Joshua Yaro, who also missed last week’s match due to a red card the game, before will also be available. And he a might get chance to get back in the starting XI due to the absence of Oguchi Onyewu (also due to yellow card accumulation). Being as Yaro has cost the Union a couple of wins recently (the aforementioned red card, and a foul in the penalty area in stoppage time), I’d rather see Richie Marquez get a chance to pair up with Jack Elliott in the centerback spots. Marquez began the season as the starting left centerback, but was replaced by Elliott after he suffered a concussion in April, and has been stuck on the bench ever since. Elsewhere on the back line, Keegan Rosenberry should get another chance as he showed more good than bad in the Minnesota game last week.
As far as the rest of lineup, manager Jim Curtin makes it easy to predict, as squad rotation does not appear to be a concept he is familiar with. The only real question is, who will assume the number 10 role, Roland Alberg or Ilsinho?
The Red Bulls are tough at home with a solid 8-2-3 record. They have guys that can score in striker Bradley Wright-Phillips (last year’s Golden Boot winner who has 15 goals so far this season) and midfielder Danny Royer. And assist-machine Sacha Kljestan will be creating chances. One person who will not be creating chances is forward Mike Grella, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in June.
On defense, they have been without centerback Aurelien Collin for the past three matches after he suffered a foot injury, and he is still doubtful for this week. Fidel Escobar has been playing well in his place, and will probably get another chance to impress Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch. Backing everyone up will be their solid goaltender, Luis Robles.
One thing that may work in the Union’s favor is that NYRB has a midweek match coming up against Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup final. With a chance to lift a trophy, Marsch is on record saying he will rotate some players, and Union fans can hope that the Red Bulls will look past the U as they prepare for that huge match.
But most Union fans have probably lost all hope for anything this season now. I certainly have, and would prefer that Curtin would just raise the white flag and give some minutes to the younger players on the roster. I’d be playing Adam Najem, Marcus Epps, Derrick Jones, and maybe even Auston Trusty. But Curtin will pretend that they still have a shot at postseason play, and then they’ll lose anyway. I predict the ESPN viewers will be treated to a blowout.
NYRB 3, Union 0