The penultimate match of the MLS season is set for the New York Red Bulls. The pesky Philadelphia Union will host Chris Armas and his team as both clubs look to build momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Union are no joke this season. They have not lost in their last four MLS matches, scoring eight goals in that time. The defense has solidified significantly compared to the start of the season, meaning the Red Bulls will need to bring their best offensive display.
Coming off a 5-1 trouncing of Minnesota United, the Union seem to have recovered after their disappointing 3-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final.
The front four has been deadly for the Union this season, with Borek Dockal and Fabrice Picault in particular leading the team in assists and goals respectively.
Dockal recently featured in two 90 minute appearances for his country of Czech Republic over the international break, notching two assists against Slovakia. Jim Curtin cannot be too happy about this, but Dockal’s impact on the team this season suggests he will not be left out of the team.
Picault also had some playing time during the international break. His 32 minute cameo against Colombia for the United States did not result in any goals or assists, but it was great for him to represent the nation.
Picault has been a steady scorer for the Union all season. He notched his second brace of the season against Minnesota, with his last brace coming back on the first match of the season against Orlando City.
His involvement in the Union attack will be a critical shutdown point for the Red Bulls defense. International teammate Aaron Long is coming off a great 90 minute performance against Peru and will be key in stopping Picault.
The Red Bulls have struggled against the Union in the history between the two clubs. A subdued 0-0 draw back in May saw the Union bunker in for the away point at Red Bull Arena.
A rough 2-1 loss to the Union in the Open Cup will still be on the minds of the Red Bulls as they look for revenge. The team has overcome some tough adversities this season, so expect a dominant and explosive Red Bulls offense this match.
During the last three matches, the Red Bulls had to break down teams that played with a 352 system that morphed into a five at the back system in defense. The Union should take a similar approach to this match, and Armas knows just how to deal with this.
The tactics were evident last match against the Earthquakes. The high press the Red Bulls have used all season has produced some fascinating football and unstoppable counter attacks.
With Bradley Wright-Phillips back in full flight and Kaku unable to stop racking up assists, the Red Bulls attack is looking as free flowing as always. The return of Tyler Adams will also do wonders for boths sides of the ball.
Adams missed the Earthquakes match as well as the two US international matches due to back spasms. A recent interview confirmed that Adams would be back for this match against the Union.
His rest was much needed and came at the perfect time for the team and Adams himself. Missing two friendlies is not ideal for the blossoming midfielder, but taking the time off to fully recover for the end of year push was vital.
This match has the possibility of being an exact opposite of the match played back in May. The 0-0 was painful to watch from a Red Bulls standpoint, especially when the points were there to be won.
The Union are quite a different team from the last meeting. Just one loss in their last 10 MLS matches has the team riding some pretty strong momentum.
The Red Bulls cannot take this game lightly, especially considering they are still a point behind Atlanta in the Supporters’ Shield race. The Union will come out looking for a win, so Armas needs to put on another tactical masterclass to get past Curtin’s men.