New York Red Bulls (9-8-10, 37 points) at Philadelphia Union (9-9-9, 36 points)
What: Major League Soccer regular season match
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.; Where: PPL Park, Chester, Pa.; Tickets: purchase tickets
TV: NBC Sports Network with play-by-play announcer Steve Cangelosi and color analyst Robbie Mustoe
Parking: $20 at PPL Park approved lots; Mass transit: regular shuttle service from Chester Transportation Center.
What a scintillating week.
The Philadelphia Union will host the New York Red Bulls Saturday afternoon followed by the U.S. Open Cup title match Tuesday night against Seattle Sounders FC and capped with a visit from the Houston Dynamo on Sept. 20.
PPL Park will be buzzing over the next week.
It all starts with a rivalry match against the Red Bulls (9-8-10, 37 points). New York is in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and has managed consecutive wins for the first time since April.
Bradley Wright-Phillips leads the Red Bulls and the league with 21 goals while Thierry Henry has 12 assists tying him for third in MLS. Wright-Phillips was pulled from their 1-0 win over D.C. United on Wednesday with tightness in his right hamstring. His status is unclear for Saturday.
Still, the Red Bulls are a dangerous club.
“New York-Philadelphia across all sports is a bitter rivalry,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. “We don’t like each other too much. It’ll be big to take both games from them on our field. It matters a great deal that we protect this building and give our fans what they deserve which is wins at home. We’ve started to establish that now and we want to keep it going.”
The Union (9-9-9, 36 points) have won three matches in a row, including a home-and-home sweep of Toronto FC, vaulting them into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Crew.
Philadelphia is healthy and ready to go.
“We’re healthy at a good time,” Curtin said. “Knock on wood, we’re fit, we’re 90 minutes fit. It’s been a benefit to us that we’ve been playing in what feels like playoff games for several months. So we dug a deep hole early on and we fought our way out of it. But every game has been – I don’t want to say do or die, but they’ve been playoff-type games. To have that experience, to know what it takes to manage the Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday that has been important.”
Sebastien Le Toux’s surge has been a huge reason for the Union’s recent success. He has 11 goals and six assists and his hustle has been contagious.
“I’m healthy,” Le Toux said. “Last year at the end, I had injuries with my foot and it was tough to cut and run like I wanted. I feel really good now and it’s important because of how I play. Hopefully, I’ll stay healthy and keep it going the rest of the season. I’m excited because we have an exciting month of September with so many big games.”
Every game is big from here on out – especially in the next week.
- Video preview: Taming the Bulls
“This is what you play for, to have these types of games,” Le Toux said. “As players, it brings out the best in us. We’re a confident group right now and we are playing well. We want to keep it all going and we all believe in each other. We had a tough start early in the season and we stayed together. Now, we’re getting results and it feels great.”
The passionate fan base will feel great if the Union can win the next two matches against New York and the U.S. Open Cup final.
It’ll be a challenge to prepare for these two matches in such a short amount of time. New York is first but the Union also have an eye on Seattle.
“I won’t sugarcoat or hide it,” Curtin said. “With a massive game against New York and an Open Cup final which again – I could say it’s just another game but it’s the biggest game this club has ever had. There’s no way to hide that. That is a big thing on Tuesday. We’ll focus on winning both games.”
What are your thoughts on this upcoming match against New York? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org