After a three-game spell away from home, Philadelphia Union are back at Subaru Park as they play host to rival New York Red Bulls. It’s a battle not only of fierce rivals but the two top squads in the Eastern Conference facing off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Ahead of the match, Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media about the upcoming home game against one of the club’s biggest rivals. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Good, Healthy Rivalry
The best way to add to a sporting event is the introduction of a rivalry. Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other” at the heart of a good sporting rivalry is a deep despise of the opposing club. Whenever Philadelphia battles New York regardless of the sport, it is labelled as a rivalry.
“It is a game that has a lot of meaning for both clubs, it is a big test for us, and one that we look forward to,” Curtin told the gathered media.
The rivalry between the Union and Red Bulls have only gotten more intense over the past few seasons with two of the Union’s biggest postseason wins coming against the club from New Jersey. In 2019, the Union overcame two, two-goal deficits to earn the club’s first win in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Last season the two foes faced off once again and ended with a moment that every Union fan won’t forget courtesy of the latest goal in MLS history coming Jakob Glesnes. On Saturday night at Subaru Park, Curtin expects it to be a special game just like the others.
“Every game we play against them has a Playoff feel to it. Again, it’s a good, healthy rivalry. The proximity obviously makes it intense as well. We know each other really well, they have a very talented team, we have a good team as well and it will be one of those really tight games I imagine.”
One Play Game
Philadelphia has held the upper hand in the rivalry against the Red Bulls, having not lost in the last seven contests. At Subaru Park, it has been a fortress for the Boys in Blue against the side in red, having won each of the previous five games in front of the Union faithful. Curtin was quick. point out that despite the recent success, any of the games could have had a different result.
“I think you can look over the last ten matches between us and Red Bull, they are very hard fought,” Curtin said. “They are all pretty much for the most part one goal games, one play games, we expect a really tough task. They have a really strong team, really deep squad, whoever they put on the field this weekend it will be a very tuff test for us at home. Again, two teams that play a pretty similar and familiar style.” The confidence of the Red Bull team especially on the road will not make it easier for the Union as New York Red Bulls are just the third squad in MLS history to win each of their first six road games.
But on the other hand the Union is still unbeaten at Subaru Park this season too. And with the support of the fans the Union will have one more advantage Red Bull does not have.
“We need our fans at their absolute maximum cheer us on.”
Playing on the Edge
With a matchup of similar styles all eyes will be on the midfield battles where Union midfield Jose Martinez has dominated play once again. Being the lone man in front of the defensive line means the Venezuelan is in involved in countless plays and as a result he finds himself on the verge of the league’s automatic one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
“Jose lives on the edge which I like and what makes him a special player,” Curtin said. “If he can avoid a silly yellow card I will take that but I don’t want to take away his intensity or tackling. He has to be smart about how he approaches the game because there will be energy and excitement but you don’t want that to go over the top and get a team in trouble.”
Martinez can have one expunged from his count under the league’s good behavior policy which says if a player makes five appearances without receiving a yellow card. Curtin said the chance of that for Martinez is unlikely but not impossible because of his placement in the middle of all the action.
Should Martinez have to miss a match in the near future, Curtin said that the technical staff have created a few different options for the head coach to choose from.
“Obviously we are better when he is on the field and everyone knows that and sees that,” Curtin said. “There is different variables you could use, there is different ways we can do it, it’s good to have options for sure. I think we are best with Jose out there. But with national teams, with injuries, with suspension there is opportunity for others to step up.”