New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union
When: Sunday, 5 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
TV: ESPN with play-by-play announcer Adrian Healey and color analyst Taylor Twellman
Radio: None; Online: Streaming via the WatchESPN and the mlssoccer.com/live app.
Referee(s): Baldomero Toledo (main), Kermit Quisenberry, Corey Parker, Jorge Gonzalez (fourth)
Another day, another match against a heated rival.
This time, the New York Red Bulls will visit PPL Park to battle the Philadelphia Union in front of a national television audience (5 p.m. ET, ESPN) on Sunday.
The Union (6-5-4, 22 points) remain three points behind the Red Bulls (7-5-4, 25 points).
Do the math. If the Union can pull out a victory, they’ll pull even with their Eastern Conference rival.
Thierry Henry is healthy, but the Red Bulls will be shorthanded without Juninho (yellow card accumulation), Tim Cahill (groin) and defender Jamison Olave (suspended, red card accumulation).
“They’re certainly a deep team and when you follow their results and lineups this year, they’ve often had a better result when they’ve had one or two guys out,” Union manager John Hackworth said of the Red Bulls. “That’s hard in this league because it’s easy to take a big-name player out and think you’re going to get an easier game. What you discover is the guy who’s second in line has been working really hard and is super motivated to have a good performance and prove to the coaching staff and fans that they belong.
“So we don’t ever take it lightly. What it changes is the scouting and the preparation.”
This match against New York is the first of a crucial four-match stretch which also includes FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and Houston.
It starts against the Red Bulls, hardly an easy task.
“This is going to be a huge set of games for us, this next four,” Hackworth said. “But I like where we are and I like the way we’ve rebounded from adversity and the way we’ve grinded out results. So I like our chances.”
The Union haven’t played a league match since June 5, a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Crew. Since then, they defeated Reading United 2-0 and Harrisburg 4-2 in a pair of friendlies. That was sandwiched around a 3-1 loss to D.C. United in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, MD.
Now comes a heated match against the Red Bulls with the whole country watching.
“I think the fact that it’s under probably the biggest spotlight that we have in our league, on a Sunday afternoon, being a standalone game, on national TV, at home, against one of our main rivals, it puts a lot of opportunity out there for us,” Hackworth said. “This is a big chance for a young team, a club that I think constantly scraps even within our own fan base for the respect I think we deserve a lot more of.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org