Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bulls
When the Philadelphia Union (1-2-0) travel north on I-95 to Red Bull Arena, a rivalry will be born. The Union took care of one rival directly to the south, beating D.C. United on April 10th in the club’s Home Opener, and now they’ll look to do the same against New York (3-1-0) in Major League Soccer’s newest soccer-specific stadium. Two red cards leading to early exits have plagued Philadelphia through three games, but the club has shown an undeniable resilience in the face of adversity, one that will serve them well once mistakes are eliminated.
The Red Bulls are hot early in the MLS season, beating Chicago, Seattle and Dallas, with only a 2-0 loss to Chivas tainting the club’s start. The club has only scored four goals in as many games though, and just lost attacking midfielder Macoumba Kandji to foot surgery. Juan Pablo Angel leads the team with two goals, both at home last week against Dallas. Angel will look to pick up Kandji's slack on the offensive side of the ball, but the Red Bulls will also need another strong performance from goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, who has performed well this season aside from a poor outing against Chivas.
The Union will be without their Captain, Danny Califf, but the visiting side have played well in attack, with Sebastien Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno and Roger Torres clicking in the attacking third.
So what gives? Let’s take a look position-by-position.
Goalkeeper – Philadelphia Union
Chris Seitz hasn’t started the season the way he hoped, but Manager Peter Nowak is confident in his young ‘keeper, giving him a vote of confidence as the starter. Seitz has started just seven MLS games in the past two seasons and is gaining valuable experience, but he’ll look to cut out the mistakes that have masked his talent over the last two games in a hurry.
Goalkeeper – Red Bull New York
Coundoul is coming off a strong, seven-save performance against Dallas, routinely bailing out his defense. With a 1.00 GAA through four games in 2010, the Senegalese ‘keeper has been the answer in net for New York, carrying momentum over from his 1.25 GAA in eight League matches last season after signing with the Bulls. Coundoul will look to stay in form against Philadelphia, but needs his defense to take some pressure off with a better performance than the one put forth a week ago.
Defense – Philadelphia Union
Aside from two costly red cards, this unit has actually played well. Cristian Arrieta has proven to be a vast improvement over David Myrie, locking down the right side of the defense and contributing to the Union's counter-attack.
Michael Orozco has been tough to beat since migrating to a central defensive role after the Seattle match, but he has the task of locking down Angel without the aid of Califf. His effectiveness against one of MLS’ top strikers will be a key factor during the match.
On the left, Jordan Harvey has been very reliable, even going above and beyond the call of duty and scoring against Toronto in MLS Goal of the Week Nominee fashion. The equalizing goal wasn’t enough in Toronto, but it’s a good sign that both Union fullbacks are looking to press forward.
So who will fill Califf’s role? Two options are Toni Stahl, who featured in a centerback position against Seattle, and Shavar Thomas, who carries the most MLS experience of any Union defender. The Technical Staff could decide to come out with a three-man backline, but the liklihood is that either Thomas or Stahl will need to step up on Saturday.
Defense – Red Bull New York
This unit has performed well overall this season, particularly rookie Tim Ream, but they need to be better than they were against Dallas. FCD routinely won dangerous balls in the air within New York’s area, with a few near misses and some terrific saves by Coundoul preventing Dallas from having a big game offensively.
Ream will pair with 13-year veteran Mike Petke in the center of the defense. While Ream has been one of the most impressive first-year players in MLS this season, he undoubtedly benefits from Petke’s experience, field awareness and positioning.
On the wings, Costa Rican left back Roy Miller has been a revelation for the Bulls after signing with the club in January. At 6-2, Miller brings a physical presence to a defense that struggled mightily last year. On the other side, Jeremy Hall seemed a step behind Dallas’ Atiba Harris and David Ferreira last week, but the 2009 #11 overall MLS SuperDraft selection is a talented right back and dangerous when moving into the attack.
Midfield – Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia’s midfield has been a bright spot, with 18-year-old Roger Torres leading the way. Torres has been tough to stop with the ball at his feet, but more importantly is connecting with his teammates in the air, assisting on half of the club’s four goals this season. While Torres was strategically substituted against Toronto, look for him to stay on the field longer on Saturday.
Fred will join Torres in an attacking midfielder role, bringing calmness on the ball to help the Union maintain possession. While effective in his first two games, Fred will look for his first point as a Union player against New York. Torres and Fred will continue building cohesion in the midfield, but it’s hard to believe they’ve only played in two MLS matches together. This looks to be a dynamic duo for Philadelphia.
We’ll likely see Andrew Jacobson and Stefani Miglioranzi pair up again in holding midfield positions, a role the two have played soundly over the last two games. Not hearing their names frequently from the announcers often means they’re doing their jobs effectively, freeing up Fred and Torres to push forward into the attacking third. Their two-way play will be vital for Philadelphia on both sides of the ball.
With Shea Salinas finally off the injury report altogether, look for his role to expand and his tremendous speed to be on display.
Midfield – Red Bull New York
The loss of Kandji will hurt, but shouldn’t cripple New York’s midfield. Even with Kandji though, this unit struggled against Dallas. Kandji will likely be replaced on the left wing by new acquisition Brian Nielsen, who would become the fourth starter in just five games in that spot.
Joel Lindpere has been a strong addition in the middle, scoring the first ever goal at Red Bull Arena in a friendly against Santos FC and then the Bulls’ first goal of the season, a game-winner against Chicago in the opener.
Seth Stammler should start again in a holding midfielder role, but look for Carl Robinson to continue his comeback from an injured right knee, likely easing his way back into action coming off the bench.
Rounding out the midfield, Dane Richards has speed to burn, but can be exploited by more physical players. He’s struggled in his last two matches but will try to rebound against Philadelphia.
Attack – Philadelphia Union
Sebastien Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno will look to reignite the magic that led to victory against D.C., and should find space against a defense that had holes against Dallas. Le Toux’s speed and work-rate could cause problems for Petke, and Moreno will look to exploit Ream’s lack of experience, although the rookie hasn’t shown many growing pains through four games. Service from Fred and Torres will be important, but Le Toux and Moreno will also have to create chances on their own.
Nick Zimmerman will be eager to make an impact against his former team, but there are only so many minutes to go around. Same goes for young attackers Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney. All three reserves have boatloads of talent, but finding time on the pitch to showcase what they can do is proving to be difficult with Moreno and Le Toux in good form. Look for at least one of the three to make a difference coming off the bench.
Attack – Red Bull New York
Angel is the engine that makes this offense go, and he’ll have to be accounted for at all times. He had two goals against Dallas, but could have had four if he had converted a second PK and another goal wasn't called back by a very close offside call. Marking Angel will be a priority for Orozco, and he’ll likely receive help in addition.
Another recent signing, Salou Ibrahim, made his home debut last week but failed to impress. He’ll have to be better to maintain a starting role. Part of the problem may simply be adjusting to his new side, but he also hasn’t looked particularly fast or dangerous. We’ll see Saturday if he’s a suitable pairing for Angel moving forward.
Philadelphia Union Injury Report
OUT: DF Danny Califf (suspension – red card)
PROBABLE: MF Stefani Miglioranzi (upper leg strain)
Red Bull New York Injury Report
OUT: DF Chris Albright (knee surgery recovery); MF Giorgi Chirgadze (hip surgery); DF Kevin Goldthwaite (adductor surgery recovery);
QUESTIONABLE: DF Jeremy Hall (L ankle sprain); MF Carl Robinson (R knee sprain)
Date: Saturday, April 24, 2010
Location: Red Bull Arena; Harrison, NJ
Television: Live Well HD Network/TeleFutura
Talent: JP Dellacamera (Play-by-Play), Kyle Martino (Color Analyst)
Last Match Highlights