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Philadelphia Union aim to bounce back from Saturday’s 1-0 loss away to Nashville SC when they visit the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night. Union Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke to the media to preview the rivalry match. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.

Jersey Bound

The Union are looking to go 2-0 against the Red Bulls in season after taking down their rivals by a 1-0 margin in May at Subaru Park. With injuries to Caden Clark, Aaron Long, and Daniel Royer, the Red Bulls lineup will look a lot different compared to the first match between these two teams. Despite those injuries, the Red Bulls managed to win 2-1 on the road against Orlando City SC on Saturday.

“It starts with the coach,” Curtin said. “I think he’s done an incredible job because they’ve dealt with a lot of big injuries to top players. The group that we played a month and a half ago is not the same group, personnel-wise, that’s on the field now for them.

Gerhard Struber, who joined the Red Bulls in October 2020 from Barnsley in the English Championship, has led his team to 7th place in the Eastern Conference, just above the playoff line

“What they’ve really shown this year is a lot of tactical flexibility,” Curtin said. “Their formations are changing in-game a lot. Their pressure remains the same: they’re very intense with how hard they work.”

Music City Lessons

The Union conceded the only goal of their match against Nashville SC in the second minute and could not find a way through the hosts’ backline after that. Curtin wants his side to use the dropped points as motivation going into Thursday’s night game.

“[The Red Bulls] are a team that tends to bring the best out of us,” Curtin said. “Our matches against Red Bull are always very high intensity, two teams that know each other fairly well and put a lot into the games.

In regards to what went wrong in the Nashville game, Curtin cites the lack of possession in dangerous areas. Despite having 51.4% possession for the game, the coach was not satisfied.

“Basic possession, that you see listed on the MLS app during the game, to the Philadelphia Union is completely useless,” Curtin said. “The basic percentages don’t matter. Where we possess the ball is what we look at, and how many penalty area entries are we creating. Look, against Nashville, it wasn’t enough.

Ready to Rotate

Jamaican internationals Andre Blake, Cory Burke, and Alvas Powell have left the Union for the Gold Cup, so Curtin has to rotate his squad while they are away. The coach sees striker Sergio Santos as someone who will have step up in their absence.

“Sergio, obviously, he’s a great striker,” Curtin said. “He’s always difficult for opponents to play against, he’s creating chances, he’s only hit the back of the net once this year but we recognize him as a guy that we’re going to need to get a lot out of in Cory’s absence.

In goal, Curtin says he needs both Matt Freese and Joe Bendik to be ready in the absence of Blake

“Matt’s done this before,” Curtin said. “He has stepped up and won big games for us, so we’re just asking him to be himself, to do exactly what he’s done in [Union II] games this year or in training every day. He’s a great young goalkeeper, this is a great opportunity for him, and we have full confidence in what he’s about.

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