Philadelphia Union are back at it again with a battle against the New York Red Bulls set for Saturday night at Subaru Park. Ahead of the club's second match in four days, Head Coach Jim Curtin took to the media to provide updates. Here are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
In Form vs. Rested Legs
When the Boys in Blue suit up against the Red Bulls on Saturday evening, it will mark the club’s seventh match in 19 days. The Union enter coming off a gritty 1-1 draw on Wednesday night against New England Revolution with the game’s two goals coming in the final 10 minutes of the contest. Meanwhile the New Jersey-based club will have had a full week of recovery, rest and a normal training schedule.
“We know they’ll have the fresh legs and we know the challenge ahead,” Curtin said. “We expect a very difficult match in our building and we’ll have to be very good in both boxes as it often does come down to that between us two.”
Defenders Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes plus Jamiro Monteiro have each logged the full 450 minutes during the stretch with Olivier Mbaizo and Alejandro Bedoya both topping 430 minutes. Curtin said that the plan is to get some fresh players rotated into the group but praised his squad’s resilient efforts.
“I have to give full credit to the players for the demand that’s been put on them in these high-intensity games against really good teams between Champions League and in the regular season. They’ve answered the bell and we’ve been in every game. To navigate this stretch and get to either at or above .500 would be good and then you can include those CCL games with success as well. We’ll make a few changes to get some fresh bodies out there but you won’t see 7-8 changes because that’s not possible at this time. The backline has been logging a lot of minutes but they’ve done a good job. The midfield has really pushed and asked to defend a lot and attack a lot. Our strikers we’ve been able to keep some freshness with all three playing well. We will find a little window to get some time for guys that are fresh out there.”
The rivalry between Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls has always been intense but the battles over the past few seasons have upped the intensity. Momentum swung the Union’s way during the infamous ‘Ilsinho Game’ where the club rallied from a 2-0 deficit thanks to Monteiro plus a brace from the Brazilian midfielder. While NYRB claimed the win in Jersey, the two sides squared off in an epic MLS Cup Playoff match with the Union emerging victorious via a 4-3 margin in extra time. Last season the two sides only met twice, with the Union sweeping the Bulls a combined 4-0 margin.
“You can go through the long list of games and there is a lot of history there and a lot of good, high-quality games that are exciting,” Curtin said. “They are usually one or two play games so you have to be focused on restarts, transitions and they are our biggest running game and they have fresh legs. The odds might be against us but I know this group and I challenge them again because this one will be difficult under the circumstances but this group has a way of making the fans proud, making me proud under the hardest moments.”
Man vs. Man
Philadelphia Union has started every match of the 2021 calendar in a 4-4-2 diamond that congests the middle of the pitch while aggressive pressing every player on the ball. For the first time in some time, the Boys in Blue will be facing off against a side that not only is familiar with the formation but can employ it as well.
“If they do choose to play that formation, it will be where the matchups are kind of like man versus man all over the field and it comes down to every individual battle,” Curtin said. “It becomes about rolling your sleeves up and if you beat the guy directly in front of you more than the Red Bull does, you are going to get on the good end of the result. In certain types of games where teams have similar ideas and thinking, that’s an easier way to break things down for everyone.”
That matchup could pit Leon Flach against another very talented No. 10 playmaker. After keeping the Revs Carles Gil in check, the 20-year-old has the task of locking down Red Bull homegrown Caden Clark. Clark has contributed to four goals for the side via three goals and an assist but Curtin said the club won’t change too much for their principles.
Philadelphia Union goes for the rivalry win against New York Red Bulls tomorrow night. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.