MLSSoccer.com is right — nobody knows exactly how high the Union’s ceiling is right now. Philly has gone from an Open Question to a playoff lock, and they have knocked off a slew of quality opponents along the way. Jim Curtin and the team think they can reach third place, secure a home playoff match, and then give everything they’ve got in a postseason run.
Standing in the way of a MLS Cup run, however, are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, who also happen to be the two best teams in MLS by some margin (Dallas, the best in the west, is eight points behind Red Bulls, second in the east; Atlanta United and Red Bull have goal differentials that could reach +30 while the next best team in MLS, Sporting KC, is at +18).
In his midweek presser, Curtin grouped the Union in with Red Bulls, Atlanta, and NYC as the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and next weekend (October 21, to be exact), Philly will get their third chance this season to show that they can hang with Red Bulls.
So this Friday Facts takes a look at the recent history between the clubs.
While the MLS chose to look at the Union’s all-time record versus Red Bulls, that’s not at all reflective of the clubs’ latest showdowns. Over the past two seasons, the Union and Red Bulls are 2-2-2 in all competitions.
Philly and New York went 1-1-1 in 2017, splitting two games at Talen Energy Stadium and drawing in a late season matchup at Red Bull Arena. Red Bulls knocked off the Union 1-1 (3-5 on penalties) in the 2017 US Open Cup.
In 2018, the clubs have met twice. The Union earned a 0-0 draw at Red Bull Arena in May when Marcus Epps had a breakaway saved and CJ Sapong missed a penalty before Andre Blake came up big late to preserve the point. Philly then ran through Red Bulls in the US Open Cup in June thanks to Haris Medunjanin and Ale Bedoya’s big matches. Medunjanin shook off Tyler Adams to score the opener from a Bedoya helper, then both players combined to set up Cory Burke for what would be the eventual winner.
Tight in back
Red Bulls — along with Seattle — have the tightest defense in MLS this season with only 33 goals conceded. Philly’s not quite at that level, but in the last two seasons very few goals have occurred when these clubs face off.
In their last two matchups in league play, the Union and Red Bulls have failed to score at all (both times at Red Bull Arena). In US Open Cup play — all-time — Philly and New York have only ever finished with a 1-1 or 2-1 result (the Union have two 2-1 wins, NY has one; both teams have one win on penalties following a 1-1 draw).
Even more odd: In their last five league games, only one team has scored when Philly and New York play. In October 2016, Red Bulls won 2-0. Philly responded with a 3-0 win in May 2017 and New York punched back with a 2-0 victory in June before a 0-0 draw in September and again this past May.
What is the deal with Montreal?
Both of these teams are undefeated in their last four league matches. Philly has three shutouts during their run while the Red Bulls have two. They are both 1-0-1 on the road and 2-0 at home. Philly has scored eight and allowed one (1!!!!) goal during that run, while Red Bulls have notched 10 and given up only four.
Weirdly, both teams last fell to Montreal Impact. The Canadian side knocked off Red Bulls 3-0 at Stade Saputo and dropped Philly 4-1 at Talen Energy Stadium. That defeat was New York’s first since July (ok, that’s impressive), but Philly has only fallen twice in league over the past two months.
So these are very hot teams, and their record head-to-head recently has been extremely even. Get ready for a huge Eastern Conference matchup. And if the Union show they can knock off one of the two Supporters’ Shield contenders?
The Cup could be the limit.