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Philadelphia Union-Red Bulls battle for 1st in East

Carlos Coronel for the New York Red Bulls

PREVIEW – The MLS game of the week sees rivals Philadelphia Union and the New York Red Bulls square off Saturday night. First place in a crowded Eastern conference is in play, and not much separates the two. New York is looking for an unprecedented eighth-straight road win to start the year. The Union is looking to get back to winning ways and is unbeaten at home. Both teams are coming off differing results in the Open Cup midweek. 

Red Bulls face a big litmus test in Philadelphia 

Last week’s 1-1 draw at home against the Portland Timbers followed a theme. That being, New York simply isn’t finding the luck to win at home. In fact, they had to overcome the goal deficit to earn a point. On a positive note, the point has stretched the Red Bulls’ unbeaten run to four games in league play and six including the Open Cup. 

The 3-0 beat down at DC United Tuesday saw squad rotation and youngsters involved in goals. Luquinhas balled out with a goal and an assist, however captain Aaron Long and centerback Lucas Monzon left early with injuries. Gerhard Struber sounded optimistic after Long underwent an MRI. Patryk Klimala’s status remains up in the air, as he remains in health and safety protocols. 

But this weekend is a litmus test for the Red Bulls. In second place, just a point behind the Union and one point above both Montreal and Orlando. Five league road wins to start the year is incredible, only conceding just three times. Their perfect road record will also be on the line, as New York hasn’t beaten Philly since October 2018. Winning at Subaru Park would be a real feather in the Red Bulls’ cap, and further, enhance their contender status. 

Union aim to erase winless run 

Very quietly, the Philadelphia Union is going through a tough stretch. After going unbeaten in their opening six league games, they’re now without a win in its last five. In that fruitful six-game stretch, Union won five, drew one and conceded only twice. Since then, three draws, one loss, shipping six goals. The contrast in form has them clinging onto first place in the East by a single point. 

Furthermore, the top seven play-off places are separated by five points. Jim Curtain, like Struber, rotated his team in the 2-1 loss at Orlando City in the Open Cup. They now go back home, where they’re unbeaten and have only conceded twice. Daniel Gazdag has been great with five goals and two assists. The emergence of Julian Carranza has paid sweet dividends with four goals and two assists, an absolute steal. 

The Union will feel confident in this particular matchup. They haven’t lost in its last seven contests against the Red Bulls, including two wild playoff wins at home. 

What to expect in Philadelphia Union-Red Bulls

The game of the week has the potential to be a tight, physical affair. Two teams were separated by a point in the table, and goal differential also parted by one single goal in favor of New York. They’re also two of the stingiest defenses in all of MLS, bolstered by two of the best goalkeepers in the league. 

The physicality will come as these teams rank among the top in both interceptions per match and successful tackles per match. Duels will be a popular word throughout the game and whichever team wins that, will likely find themselves with three points. Fouls will be aplenty, and it’s Philly versus New York, so expect scrums. First place is up for grabs. The game will kick off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. It will be televised live on MLS Live on DAZN, PHL17, and MSG.


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