Ahead of Saturday’s away game against Philadelphia Union, we asked Joe Lister (Joe_Lister21) of SB Nation sibling site Brotherly Game a few questions about the Eastern Conference’s other Red Bull-styled side
OaM: With some of the high-profile offseason exits from the Philadelphia squad such as Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, which players have been stepping up into the lineup, and where have the Union had to adjust?
While McKenzie’s exit hasn’t had much of an impact (Jack Elliott was already known as a solid defender before McKenzie was a frequent starter, and Elliott’s stepped up since the sale), Aaronson’s absence has been felt in the midfield. The Union has been trying to bolster their midfield with the additions of Leon Flach, Stuart Findlay, and most recently Daniel Gazdag. Overall though, the midfield is not all that weak. Flach, Jamiro Monteiro, and the rest of the midfield has stepped up.
OaM: New York Red Bulls fans are always curious about the makeup of the Union given the presence of Red Bull Global alum Ernst Tanner as a club executive. Do the Union remain committed to the high-pressing, young-signing Red Bull philosophy or have Jim Curtin and Co added some wrinkles as the team continues to evolve? Are Philadelphia fans satisfied with the Red Bull approach to tactics and roster-building?
Much to the chagrin of much of the fanbase, the Union hasn’t really gone out and made any big international signings (outside of Gazdag this week). The Union instead has really focused on promoting academy players and improving them, though that’s mostly because majority owner Jay Sugarman saw a way to get good players without actually spending money. I think fans would appreciate some more of the old Tanner style, but if the kids can start playing and getting real minutes (Jack McGlynn seems to be leading the charge), that sentiment might change.
OaM: With the Union coming off both Champions League squad rotation and a midweek MLS match, which players are most likely to be rested and/or brought into the squad on a situational basis? Should we expect any adjustments to Jim Curtin’s tactics?
If there’s one thing that the Union doesn’t like to do, it’s rotate their lineups. You might see a few changes up top (most likely with Anthony Fontana or Cory Burke starting), but the deeper part of the midfield and the defense will stay the same. The Union will probably play the same that they typically have, pushing the defense on deeper runs towards the corners and looking for a lucky cross.