The Red Bulls face two-time US Open Cup finalist, Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night. I caught up with Brotherly Game writer Eugene Rupinski...
Once a Metro: This is the first of four scheduled meetings between the New York Red Bulls and the Union this season. The Union have had an uncharacteristically hot start. What has changed since the past few seasons?
Brotherly Game: Red Bulls fans who were around in 2007-08 will understand - when the Union fired Nick Sakiewicz it was a brand new day. Earnie Stewart has come in and gotten rid of a lot of the dead weight and started running the Union like a top flight club should be run. There's no panic, no wondering who the next bad trade will be for. The Union are being run like a professional organization, and you're seeing that reflected in every facet of the organization.
The Union were also smart during the winter drafts, adding valuable pieces like Chris Pontius, Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, and Fabian Herbers. On a different note, it's hard to understate how important Bethlehem Steel FC has been to the Union's success. Having their own USL club has been incredibly beneficial, allowing first team guys like Herbers and Yaro as well as Academy prospects Auston Trusty (current) and Derrick Jones (former) to get meaningful professional minutes with a clear path to the first team
OaM: The Union have made the finals the previous two USOC's. Do they have expectations to win this or just perform well? How are the fans feeling going into Wednesday night?
BG: Obviously the fans here want to win the Open Cup, but I think the expectations have been tempered a bit. Losing to the Seattle Sounders in extra time in 2014 and in penalties to Sporting Kansas City last season was absolutely gut-wrenching for Union fans, so I know personally I'm not getting geared up like years past. It's also a different feel from the past two seasons, where the Union weren't going to make the playoffs and the Open Cup was really all they had to look forward to. This year, the Union are in a good spot to make the playoffs so if the Open Cup run falls flat there's still (most likely) going to be soccer in November.
OaM: Chris Pontius seems recharged since being traded from DC. Including him, who are the players RBNY should watch out for?
BG: Pontius has been a revelation for the Union, however the real danger as of late has come from Roland Alberg. The Dutch midfielder has six goals in the past four matches (three MLS and one US Open Cup), and after languishing on the bench in a very crowded midfield has made the most of the opportunity he's been given this season. The passing between Alberg, Tranquillo Barnetta, Pontius, and Sebastien Le Toux is really something to behold - those guys are really clicking with one another right now, creating chances and relieving some of the burden from rookie forward Fabian Herbers.
Projected Starting lineup
BG: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, Ray Gaddis; Warren Creavalle, Roland Alberg; Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux; Fabian Herbers
BG: The Union do well against the Red Bulls and do well in the Open Cup, so I think they pull out a 3-2 win.
You can read Once a Metro's responses to Brotherly Game's Three Questions here.