The New York Red Bulls need to snap out of the funk that has plagued the team for the past four weeks. Playing against the Philadelphia Union at home is coming at quite a good time for the team, who has only lost once at Red Bull Arena this season. The team has not won a match since August 12th and, despite getting a few valuable away draws, could have come out with a few better results.
Specifically in their last two outings away to both Chicago Fire and FC Dallas, New York seemingly switched off for a split second, resulting in the opposing team scoring. This is something that Jesse Marsch needs to address before these crucial end of season matches get underway, as the Red Bulls need to sharpen their game if they want it make the playoffs this season.
Currently in 6th place, New York could move to as high as fourth with a win over the Union. Much like the Red Bulls, Philly has struggled in the past few weeks of the season. Their last win was also back in the beginning of August, beating FC Dallas 3-1. However, they are second to last in the East and have won just eight matches on the year.
One big surprise for the Union has been forward CJ Sapong. The American has scored a career high 13 goals so far this season and has been the one of the Union’s best players. Sapong has kicked the title of “Non-goal scoring forward”, passing the unflattering honor to teammate Chris Pontius, who has not been able to get his name on the scoresheet all season.
The Union also have Andre Blake in between the sticks. The Jamaican is always capable of completely frustrating the opposing forwards just like he did so many times at the Gold Cup in the summer. Though he still has a lot of room to develop, Blake is showing early signs of becoming a top keeper in the MLS.
For the Red Bulls, they will be looking past this match against the Union as they prepare for a cup final in Kansas City on Wednesday. Fans should expect to see mostly bench players getting the start against Philly, with the likes of Muhamed Keita and Gonzalo Veron likely to see significant minutes. Bradley Wright-Phillips and other first team players could also see the field a bit, but will not be risked if necessary.
Daniel Royer will certainly not be played, but has reportedly returned to practice and has been making great strides towards his return. It is still a bit uncertain as to whether he will play in the Open Cup final, but having him back before the end of the season is definitely a goal for the Red Bulls medical staff.
One player who has been shining for the Red Bulls has been newly signed defender Fidel Escobar. The Panamanian has been a rock in the backline and has given Marsch another fantastic option to put in front of “Ironman” Luis Robles. With the prolonged absence of Aurelien Collin as well, Escobar is proving to be much more valuable to the team in the recent weeks.
Regardless of who plays against the Union, the Red Bulls need a win to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. Their recent slide has put them in quite a tough spot, but they still have time to recover and finish the season on a high note. That recovery starts with a strong performance against a team the Red Bulls know they should beat at home.
A win against the Union should not be something that troubles this Red Bulls team, especially with the quality and leadership the team has off the bench. The team needs to put their recent struggles behind them and take care of business before their massive cup final. It may be a bit easy to overlook this match, but putting in a solid performance in front of their home fans could be just what this team needs before their clash with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.