Abang and McCarthy

Know Your Opponent: Red Bulls come into PPL hot in league play

This week the Union (6-12-4) play hosts to the New York Red Bulls (8-6-5) on Saturday in PPL Park. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on 6abc.

What you need to know

At the moment, the Red Bulls are one of the better teams in the MLS, currently sitting third position in the Eastern Conference. After a four game losing streak from the middle of May to the middle of June, the Red Bulls have won four out of their last five games, including entering Saturday’s matchup on a two-game winning streak in MLS play.

Much of the Red Bulls’ success this season can be attributed to first year had coach Jesse Marsch. Under Marsch, the Red Bulls play a high-energy, high pressure style that sees them aggressively pursue the ball at all times. With midfield players Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan dispossessing opponents and making runs into the box, it opens up space for the Red Bulls leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips to move freely around the box and look for a pass in from the wings.

They have a solid defensive backline, held together by goalkeeper Luis Robles and center back Matt Miazga. Robles has started and finished every regular season game for the Red Bulls since 2013, including all 19 this year. With five shutouts, he has nearly matched his total last year of six but that is also due in large part to his much improved defense. He has seen significantly less shots this year and thus is not required to make as many saves.

The Red Bulls had this past weekend off of MLS and Open Cup play, instead playing in and winning their two International Champion’s Cup games against Chelsea and Benfica. This means the last competitive game they played was against the Union last Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup. That was a home game for the Red Bulls and yet they couldn’t break down the Union’s 10-man team often enough to win, losing 4-3 in penalties.

Going into the game with the Union, the Red Bulls will be bolstered by the addition of Shaun Wright-Phillips, older brother to the team’s leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips. Both will be healthy and available for selection on Saturday.

Players to watch out for

Lloyd Sam, Winger: Sam is one of the more experienced players on the Red Bulls, having played in his native England early in his career. Since joining the Red Bulls in 2012 and playing on the right side, Sam has given the team a boost of speed and skill on the wing. In 19 games this year, Sam has five goals and four assists.

Bradley Wright-Phillips, Forward: Wright-Phillips is one of the deadliest forwards in the MLS as seen by the 27 goals he scored last season. Wright-Phillips is the most important part of the Red Bulls attack, either scoring or assisting on 14 of the team’s 29 goals.

Sacha Kljestan, Midfielder: Kljestan is a new addition to the Red Bulls, coming over in the offseason from Anderlecht in Belgium. Kljestan is the man who makes the team go, playing in the center of midfield, lying deep enough to play defense when not in possession and far forward enough to press up when on the attack. Kljestan has tallied three goals and four assists so far this season.

Probable line-up

Goalkeeper: Luis Robles
Defenders (left to right): Kemar Lawrence, Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, Connor Lade
Midfielders (left to right): Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe Martins, Lloyd Sam
Forward: Bradley Wright-Phillips

Facts and Figures

The Union are 5-7-2 all-time against the New York Red Bulls, with a 4-2-1 record against them at PPL Park. In their last league match-up on May 24 of this year, the Union won 2-0, scoring twice in five minutes in the second half to notch their third win of the season.

The Union are coming off a 3-2 loss against D.C. United on Sunday, while the Red Bulls are coming off a 2-0 victory over Orlando City SC on July 18.

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