Match previews / Union

Match preview: New York Red Bulls vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: New York Red Bulls (1-3-6, 15th in the East) vs Philadelphia Union (3-4-2, 10th in the East)

What: MLS Matchday 11

Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

When: Saturday, May 6, 7:30 p.m. ET

Watch: Apple TV – MLS Season Pass

Whistle: Referee Joe Dickerson, AR 1 Chantal Boudreau, AR 2 Jeffrey Swartzel, 4th off. Kathryn Nesbitt, VARs Jair Marrufo and Claudiu Badea

The Philadelphia Union return to MLS play this Saturday when they visit Eastern Conference rivals New York Red Bulls. The Union are undefeated against the Red Bulls in their last nine matches, including playoffs (W6, D3).

Scouting Report: New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls are coming off of a 1-1 draw with Chicago this past Saturday, which took the team to nine points on the year (W1, L3, 6D).  This is the first time since 2009 that the Red Bulls have had fewer than 10 points through their first 10 games of the season. They failed to make the playoffs that year.

It was newcomer and ex-Union man Cory Burke who scored the equalizer in the 89th minute, via header, to secure a point for the Red Bulls against Chicago last week in Soldier Field. It was his first MLS goal for his new team.

Burke will face his former team for the first time as a member of the Red Bulls.  Burke has recorded 26 career MLS goals, with nine of those coming off the bench. He has started 6 games thus far for New York, and has come off the bench as a sub three times.

Elias Manoel and Tom Barlow are head coach Gerard Struber’s other options up top in his 3-4-1-2, both whom have tallied one goal a piece. No player for the Red Bulls has scored more than 1 goal so far this year.  Seven players have one goal, including midfielder Omir Fernandez, who lines up at the No. 10. Playing outside in the midfield base are Dylan Nealis, now in his second year with the team, and 21 year old Cameron Harper, who is still looking both his first goal and assist of the year.

Dylan’s older brother Sean, now in his fifth year with the team, patrols the center defense and has started all ten games this year. Outside back John Tolkin leads the team in assists with 4. In net is ex-Union man Carlos Coronel, who has started all ten games.

It’s well known that the Red Bulls and Union both play similar styles of soccer: high press, high octane, and somewhat chaotic.  Energy drink soccer, if you will. The Red Bulls have found themselves battling from behind in most of their matches so far this year.  But with a tired Union squad coming off of a disappointing midweek result in Champions League, the Red Bulls may have an opportunity to take a lead in this match.

With that said, the Red Bulls are dealing with a long list of injuries and the suspension of Dante Vanzeir for his use of racist language during the Red Bulls match against San Jose on April 8.

Injury Report: Dylan Nealis (Questionable, Groin) Serge Ngoma (OUT), Luquinhas (OUT), Lewis Morgan (OUT) Matt Nociata (OUT), Steven Sserwadda (OUT) Frankie Amaya (OUT) Kyle Duncan (OUT)

Suspension Report: Dante Vanzeir (OUT – 6 game suspension)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

The Union had off last weekend in MLS play, but they played midweek on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup with LAFC.  The Union lost that match 0-3 and lost the tie 1-4 on aggregate.

The success the Union had been experiencing in Champions League had helped overshadow the team’s lackluster start to the MLS season.

With that competition now in the rear-view mirror, head coach Jim Curtin will be looking to get the engine churning a bit more efficiently in the MLS regular season. The Union currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, just outside the playoff line.

Last time out in MLS, the Union put 4 past Toronto FC on their way to a 4-2 win.  That performance provided some optimism going forward into the Champions League semi-final that the team had perhaps found a rhythm offensively after struggling to score goals in the early part of the year.

Unfortunately, the team followed that up with just one goal across their two matches against LAFC, with the lone goal coming from the penalty spot in the first leg. This will need to be remedied if the team is to have success in MLS going forward this year. Forwards Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre have 3 goals and 5 goals respectively this year in MLS, while center attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag has notched 3 goals of his own.

Equally concerning has been the defense’s tendency for giving up goals. They’ve allowed 13 regular season goals through nine games. Only three Eastern Conference teams have allowed more.

Those difficulties won’t be made any easier this week, as the team will most likely be missing their stalwart No. 6, Jose Martinez. Martinez missed their mid-week match against LAFC with a hamstring injury and his absence significantly affected the Union’s performance, specifically their inability to facilitate any type of forward movement while building out of the back.

Midfielder Leon Flach was plugged into the No. 6 in Martinez’s absence. Flach did his best and was by no means the single reason for the team’s poor performance.  But it should be clear to Jim Curtin that he cannot simply slot Flach into the No. 6 position and expect similar results to when Martinez is on the field.

Injury Report: Jose Martinez (Questionable, Hamstring)

Matchup to Watch – Union Defense/Defensive Midfield against Red Bull press

LAFC pressed really well against Philadelphia on Tuesday.  Without Martinez to help facilitate, the backline really struggled to move the ball forward, other than the long ball.  New York love to press so the Union will need to make some adjustments for Saturday.

Player to Watch – Cory Burke

The Union really could have used a player like him midweek as a change of pace substitution, as he was so often used last year.

Prediction:  New York 1 – 1 Philadelphia


  1. This game represents a good opportunity to try something a little bit different. Red Bull have been woeful. Their home stands not well-populated. Maybe give Uhre, Mbaizo, Bedoya, Wagner and Elliott a chance to rest and rethink things on the bench but available if needed. See what you can get out of Lowe, Perrea, Torres, Bueno et. al. Shaking the funk off from another disappointing elimination at the hands of LA is going to be tough. This is a real test for Curtin.

    • Going to the game along with 7 others sitting a few rows behind the goal.

      Agree totally…. but NOT expecting any changes, sadly… maybe even another loss because they’ll be wearing those damm SoCal Surfer kits again.


    • Eric Boyle says:

      All good thoughts and Curtin must see that he can’t simply stick Flach in as the sole CDM and hope for the best. On the other hand I would be surprised to see much change.

  2. SilverRey says:

    My fear is that Jim is going to put too much emphasis on this game over Open Cup. I will be very disappointed if he trots out a lineup like last year’s on Tuesday. That starting XI vs Orlando was utter nonsense – like it literally made no sense with multiple players out of position just to get them on the field.
    It the past we could get away with putting a bunch of UII players out in our first few appearances. Those days of seeing the likes Harrisburg and Rochester (RIP) to start the tournament are gone, especially since we got a bye last round.
    I want to see him get his nonsense lineup out of the way tomorrow so that we can start moving on an Open Cup run.

    • The Union also played LAFC, in LA at 11PM the Saturday before their Open Cup game in Orlando….Plus they’ll have fewer players available for Tuesday due to less International spots per USOC rules.

  3. PaulContinuum22 says:

    So are we now back to the halcyon days of sweating things out as tonwhether they’ll come from ahead or get their lunch handed to them? They better right rhw ship soon….

  4. Evildunk99 says:

    If JC is serious about owning up to his managerial comments following the loss @ LA, I would like to see Perea or Odada at D-mid. We know Flach’s limitations there, and I feel like there is little to lose with the trial of either. At CB, I’d like to see Elliott sit a few games to get his mind right, he looks frustrated with himself. We could say the same thing for Gaz too. Lowe is perfectly capable and perhaps even try out Craig in a back 3 or traditional setup. If Mcglynn is out at the U20 WC, put Flach back in at his usual spot.

    • HopkinsMD says:

      I’d be fine with all of this. And add Bueno off the bench at 60’ to give Ale a rest.
      Really curious about Odada. Liked what I have seen from him in past observances.

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