While the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday doesn’t count in the MLS standings, from a team standpoint, it’s still the Union’s second straight loss, following two consecutive wins.
Philadelphia were certainly playing to win vs. DC United, as evidenced by their starting lineup. Nine of the 11 who started vs. the Galaxy got the starting assignment on Wednesday. Only Stefani Miglioranzi and Danny Mwanga were out of the first 11.
No time to reflect or worry about the DC game, as the New York game approaches. This is a big statement game for the Union. A win or a draw should keep them with at least a share of first place in the Eastern Conference. (New England – also with six points – is hosting Real Salt Lake on Saturday).
Before the season started many observers (myself included) picked the Red Bulls to finish first in the East. I might add, this was before there was even a rumor about Dwayne De Rosario. The Red Bulls already had Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, plus a good supporting cast that included defender Tim Ream, midfielder Joel Lindpere, and wide midfielder Dane Richards. The club also helped themselves with the addition of foreign talent like Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli.
Clearly the addition of DeRo makes a strong club that much stronger. Just like one week ago when the Union had to worry about three stars in LA (Beckham, Donovan, Angel), they must account for a different trio of impact players on Saturday.
The two teams have met three times, with identical 2-1 scores in each. The home side won each league game, while the Red Bulls beat Philadelphia in a 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifier, played at Red Bull Arena.
A few things to look for on Saturday:
Is Justin Mapp effective in his return from a hamstring injury?
Manager Peter Nowak declared Mapp "ready to go" on Thursday, but will he be rusty after sitting out the last two league games? The Union need Mapp to be at least as impactful as Dane Richards, who will play opposite the Union winger.
Does Sebastien Le Toux get on the scoresheet?
He said that his ankle is fine, but he is still without a goal after three games here in 2011. The Union feed off of Seba’s energy and his goals, so if he can get things going, the Union will benefit greatly on Saturday.
Can the Union contain Dwayne De Rosario, who has now had a full week of practice to acclimate himself with his new team?
DeRo made an immediate impact after coming on in his first game with NY, assisting on the club's lone goal vs. Houston. With a full 90 minutes, it could be a busy day in the central midfield area for the Union.