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“We’ve never had an easy game in Philly”: New York Red Bulls prepped for battered but unbowed Philadelphia Union

The Red Bulls know that facing the Philadelphia Union is a tough test.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC
Felipe knows this will be a tough task for the Red Bulls
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If it seemed as though the New York Red Bulls were focused more on this game against the Philadelphia Union than their mid-week match against Sporting Kansas City, Jesse Marsch left little doubt about it with his pre-match comments after RBNY’s Friday training session.

We’ve never had an easy time in Philly. Never: Open Cup games, league matches - it’s always been an absolute battle. We’ll be prepared for that again.

The RBNY head coach is not fooled by the fact the Union has yet to win MLS 2017. The Union is often a thorn in the Red Bulls’ side, regardless of the respective form of the two teams. Marsch expects no different from this match.

We calculated this week that we wanted to put an emphasis on this game in Philly. It’s a rivalry game; it’s a team that always gives us a such great match. Even though they had a tough start to their season, it’s a quality side. We know that whenever we play Philly, they give us everything that they got.

That message had been well absorbed by the RBNY players, starting with captain Sacha Kljestan.

We know it’s going to be a tough game. We’ve always had feisty, physical games against Philly - it’s always just the way it is. They’re a rival of us, obviously. The proximity of the two teams makes us a rival. We’ve had some tough games down in Philly in the past, but we’ve always got pretty good results - so we’re going down there with the mentality that we’re going to try to win.

The Union’s results in MLS 2017 have not been good: four draws and four losses for four points in eight games. But the Red Bulls are mindful of the fact that poor form is its own motivation to succeed for the Union, and there it is well accepted in the camp that - like it or not - Philadelphia puts a little extra into its games against RBNY.

Tyler Adams can be expected to be in the starting eleven, and he echoed the sentiments of his coach and captain: the Red Bulls aren’t taking this game lightly.

We know Philadelphia hasn’t really had the start that they were looking for this season, but we know we’re going to get he best version of them. So it’s like a derby match to us, so we’re going to treat it like that and we’re looking to get three more points on the road.

There are capable players in the Union squad, and Adams is aware there is a job to do to keep them quiet:

They have a lot of dangerous players. Like I said, they haven’t started as they’d have liked to. But [Alejandro] Bedoya obviously is a big name, [Chris] Pontius, [C.J.] Sapong causes problems up front - so we’re going to have to handle them.

The teenage midfielder might be young, but he knows better than to give too much away:

Jesse always sets up a good game plan for us and it usually works against every team that we play. But for themselves: they haven’t been able to hold leads, kind of like what we had a problem with doing in the past, but we changed that. So we’re looking to take advantage of them early, get a lead early, and then finish the game.

The Red Bulls were willing to let three points slip with less of a fight than they are capable of mustering in Kansas City in order to put a strong, rested team on the field against Philadelphia. Three points is the goal, and we’ll see if it is achieved when RBNY gets underway against the Union on Saturday, May 6, at 7:00 pm in Talen Energy Stadium.