New York Red Bulls (5-5-8, 23 points) at Philadelphia Union (4-8-7, 19 points)
What: Major League Soccer regular season match
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.; Tickets: purchase tickets
TV: ESPN2 with play-by-play announcer Adrian Healey and color analyst Taylor Twellman
Radio: None; Online: Watch ESPN app or streaming video via MLS Live;
Jim Curtin doesn’t do clichés.
For him, all the talk of taking “one game at a time” and not “paying attention to the standings” is ironing board rhetoric that the Union interim manager doesn't buy into.
Because when Curtin looks at the Union’s next two matches – a Wednesday night primetime rivalry showdown with the New York Red Bulls (7 p.m., purchase tickets) at PPL Park followed by a road trip to play Chicago on Saturday (8:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) – he sees a six-point swing in the Eastern Conference and a legit chance to get out of the basement.
“Everyone says to not look at the table just focus one game at a time and all those clichés but you see a [string of matches] now where it’s New York and Chicago and both are huge games,” Curtin said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “I do look ahead and I see nine games at home and six on the road, and I said to [our locker room] at some point we’re going to have to go on a run, not just win one here, lose one there, it can’t be like that; it has to be a real upward movement now because we have dug a deep hole and we have to get out of it. The only way you do that is by putting together consecutive results.”
To get off on that foot, the Union will have to come up with the premier game plan to disrupt a Red Bulls side unbeaten in their last five and fielding a bona fide attacking duo in forwards Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Anyone who knows soccer knows what Henry can do, but this season it has been Wright-Phillips that has been on a tear with a league leading 15 goals in 17 MLS matches played. Henry is the club’s assist leader with nine, which is also tops in Major League Soccer.
“They have a bunch of world class players who can score goals and play very well together,” said Union midfielder-forward Sebastien Le Toux, who spent part of the 2012 season in New York. “We hope that they will be tired from their performance on Saturday [against Columbus] and coming here during the week maybe they will feel fatigued and not play as well as they did. [But on our end], we have to make sure that everybody is ready and is going to play well together like we did on Saturday, but this time get a positive result.”
The Union has been doing all the right things to earn positive results over the last few weeks, pulling points from four of its last five matches and scoring 14 goals in that span. Cristian Maidana has been influential in a roaming midfield role, in terms of distribution and playmaking. Good news too, is the status of Danny Cruz, who looked to have suffered a potentially debilitating injury after this hard challenge in the 11th minute against Colorado. Cruz did participate in full training sessions this week and is available for selection.
Due to ejections in the match against Colorado, the club will be without key midfielders Amobi Okugo and Michael Lahoud. Lahoud was shown a red card following what was deemed a dangerous play in the box and Okugo was sent packing postgame after receiving a red card for dissent; an infraction that came much to the chagrin of his manager.
“My comment to [MLS head of officiating Peter Walton] was if you’re going to throw guys out for cursing in this league or any professional sport we’re going to play 3v3 at the end of every game,” said Curtin. “ The things that get said, and what is the threshold, it’s difficult to put a real ring on it because you hear some things said [by players and coaches] and you can’t believe that he was allowed to talk to an official like that and get away with it. It hurts us, Amobi has been in good form, we lose him now, I’ve talked with Amobi and he knows that he was wrong."
“There are two ways this New York game could go; we could feel sorry for ourselves [for not pulling three points against Colorado] or you could get up and have a big game against New York. We need to bounce back and put together a good performance to get a result. It’s about the full three points in these six point swings; and it’s very important we come out and get three points at home. We’re overdue for a victory at home, the guys know that they feel the pressure; it’s time to get a win.”
What do you think of this New York side? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com