Match previews / Union

Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls

Game time: Saturday, 6 p.m.

TV: Fox Soccer Channel

It’s finally here. The last home game of the season. And the New York Red Bulls. All in one shot.

The Red Bulls (14-8-6) visit Philadelphia Union (7-14-7) on Saturday, and it’s been sold out for weeks. The lure of the likely prime rival and the chance to see former Barcelona stars Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez make a prime draw.

Unlike the Union, the Red Bulls are going to see postseason soccer, but it doesn’t mean they have something to play for. They’re in the playoffs regardless, and there’s talk that some regulars could be rested. Left back Roy Miller is suspended, so there’s no choice there. Newly acquired defender Carey Talley, who had been starting at right back, is out with an injury, and Philadelphian Chris Albright, who would likely start in Talley’s absence, suffered a concussion recently, so he could sit too. Attacking midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy missed practice Monday with a bruised foot. There’s even no guarantee that Henry will play. That said, if Henry sits, you still get a look at Juan Pablo Angel, whose contract runs out this year and will likely end up in a new uniform next season — possibly even the blue and gold. The team is playing well, but they’re not playing like they’d like to, as this very good analysis shows.

But you now have another potential reason to hate this team. They won’t even play their best players for their first visit to PPL Park.

The Union have similar issues but different motivation. Manager Peter Nowak has been giving time to some younger players who haven’t seen much of it, now that the team can’t make the postseason. Winger Nick Zimmerman got a rare start against Houston, for example, and even captain and center back Danny Califf got a rest that game. Much-loved and much-marginalized Roger Torres and Shea Salinas finally got some time again and have played well, but I’d be lying if I told you I knew who would start this game.

The Union players are playing for their roster spots next year, as well as spots on the expansion draft protected list. This team stands to lose two players in November through the draft, and a young team like this will almost certainly lose that maximum.

On paper, they may match up well with the Red Bulls if Henry sits and the starting fullbacks don’t play, but it depends who comes to play for the Union. If Nowak goes without two wingers, as he often does, it may not take advantage of the fullback absences. Goalkeeper Brad Knighton has played well in place of Chris Seitz and won MLS save of the week for his terrific stop on a Landon Donovan breakaway last week. If he records one more shutout, the Union will avoid the ignominy of tying the league record for fewest shutouts.

Probable starters

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper: Brad Knighton

Defenders: Jordan Harvey, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Danny Califf, Sheanon Williams

Midfielders: Justin Mapp, Andrew Jacobson, Stefani Miglioranzi, Sebastien Le Toux

Forwards: Danny Mwanga, Alejandro Moreno

New York

Goalkeeper: Bouna Coundoul

Defenders: Danleigh Borman, Tim Ream, Sam Mendes, Chris Albright

Midfielders: Joel Lindpere, Rafael Marquez, Tony Tchani, Dane Richards

Forwards: Thierry Henry, Mehdi Ballouchy

Injuries and Suspensions

Philadelphia: PROBABLE: MF Fred (head laceration); DF Juan Diego Gonzalez (L groin strain); FW Danny Mwanga (L shoulder sprain); GK Brad Knighton (L shoulder sprain).

New York: OUT: MF Luke Sassano (R ankle surgery); MF Brian Nielsen (R knee strain); MF Irving Garcia (hernia surgery); DF Carey Talley (L hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Mike Petke (R calf strain). SUSPENDED: DF Roy Miller is suspended.

Prediction

Union win 1-0. Expect some funny, original chants from the Sons of Ben and rests for top Red Bull players. New York is a better team with their best out there, but without them and against the crowd and a Union team that’s playing fairly well, it’s all evened up.

2 Comments

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