Union-Red Bulls Preview
The New York Red Bulls don’t lose often at home, but the Philadelphia Union have emerged victorious in both games this year at Red Bull Arena.
New York likely won’t be in any mood to lose to their nearby rivals for the third time Sunday when it looks to wrap up the Eastern Conference’s best record.
Philadelphia (9-16-7) has been eliminated from playoff contention while New York (16-10-6) can lock up the No. 1 seed with a victory. The Red Bulls are 11-3-2 at home, with the win total matching the franchise record.
"Usually when you say Red Bull, the guys are naturally going to be motivated. It is a bit unique that we have been eliminated," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "Obviously a tough environment to go to Red Bull Arena, they’re a team that’s playing as well as anybody."
The Union, however, won 2-0 at Red Bull Arena on May 24 and also won there on penalties in the U.S. Open Cup on July 21. They are confident they can pull off another surprise.
"We’ve had some success against New York in their building this year," midfielder Brian Carroll said. "We want to end the year strong, we want to continue to play well and improve and work on things that we need to do going forward."
New York, which has two games left, can still top MLS and capture the Supporters’ Shield. The Red Bulls have won six of their last seven at home.
"We clearly still have a lot to play for, we’re in a good position, we’ve worked hard to get ourselves here all year and from the beginning, we’ve tried to build an identity that we’d be ready for this moment," coach Jesse Marsch said. "We all knew that we’d get here and now it’s a matter of making sure in all ways we’ve built this thing up to be tested and be battle ready."
Bradley Wright-Phillips has a team-high 15 goals, but just one in his last six games. He scored the last time these teams met in New York’s 3-1 road win Aug. 1.
The Red Bulls missed a chance to clinch the East on Wednesday, losing 2-1 at Toronto FC in a contest that featured some calamitous defending by Ronald Zubar.
Midfielder Lloyd Sam is expected to start Sunday. He came off the bench in Toronto after playing the day before in a friendly for Ghana.
Philadelphia will count on playmaker Cristian Maidana, whose 15 assists tie Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco for the league lead. Top scorer C.J. Sapong has nine goals.
The Union haven’t played since a 3-1 defeat at Toronto on Oct. 3.
"They have nothing to lose, that’s the first challenge," Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty said. "They always give us a good game, they always play us tough, they’re always extra motivated to play us. It’s never easy against them, they’re one of our rivals and so we expect them to give us a real test."