Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Red Bull New York

Photo by Earl Gardner

Who: Philadelphia Union (11th place, 4 points, 0-4-4) vs. New York Red Bulls (2nd place, 16 points, 5-1-3)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, PA
When: Saturday, May 6th 7 pm
Watch: TCN, MSG, MLS Live
Whistle: Silviu Petrescu; Cameron Blanchard, Jonathan Johnson, Ted Unkel

The 2017 edition of the Philly-Red Bull “rivalry” kicks off on Saturday; set to the background of one side being off to a great start, and the other no longer sliding so much as settled at the lowest point it could find.

Scouting report: New York Red Bulls

Expected New York Lineup

What everyone, especially Earnie Stewart and the front office, should be scouting in this match is the entire Red Bull organization. This isn’t a Toronto or NYC FC, where talent is paid for regardless of it’s ability to produce. The Red Bulls have built a team, largely of standard MLS-grade players, that manages to be consistently competitive even while spending less than the Union. That’s right, while the Union are only the 12th biggest spending team in MLS, the Red Bulls actually spend $200,000 less. Their roster, like the Union’s, has a handful of small DPs, several low-six figure contracts, and then a bunch of “regular MLS guys”. And yet they’re nine places and twelve points ahead of the Union in the standings. They even play an all-too-familiar 4-2-3-1.

That success is partially due to their excellent academy system. They have nine home grown players on their roster. But the Union have an excellent academy as well, ostensibly one of the best in the league (and allegedly the world). Granted, results take time, but while our youth products are either playing elsewhere (Zack Steffen) or gone from the game entirely (Zach Pfeffer), theirs are making meaningful contributions to the first team. Of course we shouldn’t ignore the good news that is Derrick Jones, and the fact that Adam Najem choosing to sign with us instead of them could be an indicator of tides turning to the Union’s favor.

Looking to this game specifically, the Red Bull defense is not its strongest at the moment, and they’ve averaged over a goal allowed per game so far this season. If the Union midfield finally starts producing attacking threats, it could very possible yield some results for the winless team.

  • Injury report: OUT- Gideon Baah (D, broken leg), Mike Grella (M, knee injury). QUESTIONABLE- Sal Zizzo (D, calf strain)
  • Suspended: None.
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Expected Union Lineup

Well, here we are. The lineup on Saturday is unlikely to surprise anyone. Reports are that Ilsinho is still feeling under the weather, and he wasn’t training with the team on Wednesday. Odds are someone else will be starting in his spot. With Picault getting his first start last week in California, the man from FC St Pauli seems a likely pick to get a second chance to show us what he can do, though it’s not improbable that Herbers winds up on the field again. Maybe things will get extra interesting, and Pontius will get left out of the starting XI, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The only other uncertainty for the starting lineup is at right back. In the last two games Ray Gaddis has been the same dependable workhorse he’s always been, but there’s no denying Keegan Rosenberry has more potential when he’s working. Depending on what he’s seen in practice, Curtin may choose to let Gaddis keep his spot or bring Rosenberry back into the game, but either way it’s doubtful this decision will be the one to make or break this game.

In fact, it’s not clear what the key decision is going to be for the Union in this matchup. Whether you think the blame for the current run of form lies with the players, Coach Jim Curtin, Sporting Director Earnie Stewart, or even further up the totem pole, the simple fact is this is the team that will face New York on Saturday. As well as every other team on the schedule until at least the July 4th transfer window opens. We can move pieces around, we can talk about how to better make use of the talent that is on the team, and we can talk about how key players are failing to meet expectations. But at some point this team as a whole has to start meeting expectations or fall to a level of irrelevance not seen since the final season of Chivas USA. If we’re not there already.

  • Injury report: OUT- Josh Yaro (D, shoulder), Mo Edu (M, legs), John McCarthy (GK, concussion), Ken Tribbett (D, ankle sprain), Warren Creavalle (M, calf contusion)
  • Suspended: None.
Key matchup

The Entire Philadelphia Union vs. Themselves. Like it says above, this team’s biggest challenge this game isn’t their opponent. The two teams are very similar from one end of the field to another, except one manages to make their own opportunities and capitalizes on them. It’s not impossible that the Union manage to find a few opportunities of their own in this game, but the question is will they be able to seize those opportunities.

Player to watch

Bradley Wright-Phillips. The Union’s greatest hope in this game is keeping this man quiet. It’s fairly likely C.J. Sapong will find the back of the net, but unless the Union can keep BWP contained it won’t matter.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 2 -2 Red Bull New York

Eventually the Union will win a game. But there’s no reason to expect they will this Saturday.


  1. Argh.

  2. Looking at those lineups, and thinking of MLS players I’d like to land…. I think I’d take Mike Grella over any of our wingers right now. I don’t understand why he’s fallen out of favor. I know he’s getting knee treatment of some kind, but he fell of the map for RB last season and seems to like a player who could really contribute on the wing.

    I think Rosenberry starts Saturday, too.

  3. CPfeif13 says:

    Marsch chose to rest a lot of starters last night on the road against SKC so they would be fresh for the Union at home this weekend.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    Keegan Rosenberry needs to start. I didn’t argue the dude benched in favor of Ray Gaddis then be stuck there as is Jim Curtins habit. If Ray starts this week I’ll lose even more belief in this manager.
    Keegan needed a message sent. Sounds like the message was sent. Ray back to bench where he needs to be.

  5. It’s unfair to compare the Red Bulls academy because theirs has been around way long and our “youth” players like Steffen and Pfeffer were never in our academy. In like 3 more years we can start the comparisons with regards to the top team.

  6. pragmatist says:

    Thank you for putting “rivalry” in quotes.

  7. Great One says:

    If that’s the lineup Saturday, I will be massively disappointed. Alberg has under-performed, Pontius has under-performed, Gaddis was a message and that’s it.
    Jones has been steady. Get him on the field. Move Bedoya to the wing, play CJ at the 10 (second striker), and give Picault another shot at home.

  8. Thanks for the grim prognosis. I will note that I was surprised by one element of your report. I am not always as on top of this as I would have liked, but when did Zach Pfeffer get dropped by Colorado? Is everything alright with him?

  9. UnionGoal says:

    Union win 3-1


  10. Union fan 11 says:

    The union need to actually have an offense not bring the ball up the left side and have Fabinho send in a bad cross. Pontius has literally done nothing for us and needs a message sent. Bedoya isn’t playing his position he needs to move out wide for pontius and move ilsinho to CAM so he doesn’t have to be so tired chasing the wingers. Start Keegan and bench Fabinho leave Gaddis in.

  11. Expecting Multiple Events by mid June thru end of Season
    Curtn Fired
    Quality# 10 Signed
    Blake Sold for 2.5 Million to Premier League
    Alberg transfers to another team in Europe.
    Yaro and Edu return to lineup by end of July
    Brian Carrol returns to Team.
    Union go outside inner Circle to hire new coach.

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