Few teams have been as frustrating for the Red Bulls to play against than the Philadelphia Union this season. The Chester residents first eliminated RBNY from the U.S. Open Cup after Mike Grella gave the team a 1-0 lead. Later that summer the Red Bulls would surrender a two-goal lead in a mere 120 seconds en route to a 2-2 draw in their first MLS matchup with Philly of the season.
Despite their recent struggles, the Union still boast an impressive lineup including Red Bull-killer Chris Pontius, along with CJ Sapong and Charlie Davies. The latest addition to the team may be the most dangerous: USMNT starter Alejandro Bedoya, who scored a worldie in a 1-1 draw against Toronto last week.
Suffice it to say, the Red Bulls would be wise to play this game like a must-win - especially in the wake of NYC FC grabbing three points vs Houston on Friday night and snatching first place on the table. A loss to the Union - either at RBA or in the finale at Talen Energy Stadium - would make it all but impossible for the team to clinch a first-round bye in the MLS playoffs.
With Ronald Zubar still ailing, his French countrymen Aurelien Collin and Damien Perrinelle will need to continue to pick up the slack. However, the left- and right-backs are very different from the pair that started against Philly back in July. Chris Duvall and Kemar Lawrence will likely have the nods in lieu of Connor Lade and Sal Zizzo. Whether or not that translates into more success at the back-end remains to be seen.
Here is the New York Red Bulls' predicted XI vs Philadelphia Union:
GK Luis Robles
DF Kemar Lawrence
DF Aurelien Collin
DF Damien Perrinelle
DF Chris Duvall
MF Dax McCarty
MF Mike Grella - With Daniel Royer injured and Omer Damari still not healthy, Grella regains his starting job.
MF Sacha Kljestan
MF Alex Muyl - Originally penciled in as a healthy scratch, Daniel Royer's injury announcement suggests that the rookie will be getting the nod again
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
It's a little bit ironic, given the traditional rivalry between New York/NJ and the city of Philadelphia, that we don't traditionally view the Union as one of our biggest rivals - certainly not on the level of DCU, NYC FC, LA Galaxy or the Revs. But with Philadelphia's recent success against the Red Bulls, perhaps a real rivalry is brewing.
What do you think?