Union to Play Spoiler vs. I-95 Rival
Philadelphia Union (7-14-7, 28 points, seventh in the Eastern Conference) vs. New York Red Bulls (14-8-6, 48 points, first in the Eastern Conference) at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
New York won the only previous meeting between the two in league play.
6:00pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel
The Philadelphia Union will close out their inaugural season at PPL Park on Saturday against their rivals from just up I-95. Now out of playoff contention, Peter Nowak’s team will look to slow New York down as the Red Bulls head for the postseason in good form, unbeaten in their last five matches.
With a sellout crowd already confirmed for the match, Union fans will be in full voice as they hope to push their team to victory in the burgeoning rivalry, despite this being just second-ever league meeting between the two teams.
In that prior match back in April, the Red Bulls controlled the play for most of the 90 minutes en route to a convincing 2-1 victory prior to adding Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez to their ranks.
Playing much better at home (5-3-6) than on the road (2-11-1), Philadelphia will go into the match full of confidence that they can spoil the Red Bulls' march to the playoffs.
Nowak should also have a full complement of players to choose from, given that Fred should be OK after suffering a bloody gash to his head last week, courtesy of an elbow thrown by LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho. Forward Danny Mwanga appears to be nearing full health as well, as his shoulder injury has improved in recent weeks.
The Union's biggest reason to win, though, are the fans. Earlier this week, the players dedicated their last home match of the season to their supporters, and leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux talked about the importance of their fan support after training on Wednesday.
“It was great having a new stadium and the great atmosphere to play here," he said. "We’ve had a full house for practically every game, so it was great. I didn’t really expect it because there wasn’t a team before, so it was very surprising. We’ve really been a different team when we play at home because of it.”
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls come into the match on a hot streak and in prime position to capture first place in the conference from the sliding Columbus Crew. Undefeated in their last five, New York have shut out their opponent in their last three matches, including wins against Kansas City and LA and a draw against Real Salt Lake.
Designated Players Henry and Márquez sat out of training on Thursday and head coach Hans Backe said he's uncertain they'll be available for the match. However, he won't be too worried, as his side faces a Philadelphia team that has struggled for long stretches this season.
The Swedish boss summed up the Union’s season quite succinctly: “The problem for them is that they’ve had individual mistakes and haven’t taken their chances.”
Heroes & Villains
Sebastien Le Toux vs. Juan Pablo Ángel: If this game is going to have goals, they will come from this pair. With Henry ailing from a midweek knock and Mwanga still recovering from a shoulder injury, Saturday's match may be won and lost by the play of Le Toux and Ángel. With Henry possibly out of the lineup, the chances will be for Ángel to take.
Stat That Makes You Go “Hmm”
The Red Bulls are a perfect 10-0-0 when leading at halftime. Conversely, the Union are 4-0-2 when up at the break.