October 20th, 2019 marked one of the best games in Philadelphia Union history. The Eastern Conference club not only earned its first-ever home playoff win, but did so against its closest rivals, the New York Red Bulls. Now, 310 days from their last meeting, the two clubs will square off again in a different environment than the last.
Jim Curtin’s side welcomes the Red Bulls to Subaru Park on Tuesday night in the first of two matchups over the next two weeks. Both teams avoided defeat it their first regular season matches back from Orlando, with the Red Bulls claiming an important 1-0 derby win over NYCFC.
The Union failed to defeat the New England Revolution in what ended up being a lackluster scoreless draw from Gillette Stadium. Now returning to Chester for its first match in close to one year, the Union are eager to return to their home soil and shrug off last week’s performance.
“We have an opponent coming in off of a big win,” Curtin said. “We’re both kinda on the same rest so you might see some rotation from both teams. It’s going to feel good to be back at our home stadium after this long layoff. We’re really excited to get started on a new home winning streak.”
“You’re seeing a lot of 0-0, 1-0 scorelines so the margins are very small,” Curtin said. “Teams weren’t there sharpest, you also saw some big upsets, but you also didn’t see the best soccer overall. It’s something we’ve been working on this week. It was great to keep the clean sheet at New England, it’s something we pride ourselves on, but our movement ahead of the ball is important.”
The Union easily could’ve claimed a victory over the Revolution if not for Man of the Match, Revs goalkeeper Matt Turner. Turner made five saves compared to Andre Blake’s one, and salvaged his team a point in a night they struggled for any good looks offensively.
The positive for the Union coming into Tuesday night’s contest is that they’ve found the back of the net at home in multiple recent matches against the Red Bulls. Alejandro Bedoya, Jack Elliott, Jamiro Monteiro, and Ilsinho are have scored against New York in the last two league meetings which included the famous playoff win.
A key for the Union will be to be better with possession and look to break the Red Bulls press. At times in the New England match they did well to defend and hit back on a counter attack, but their final pass or shot let them down. It’s a key the team is hoping is much better in its quest to earn three points during this busy schedule.
“We’re trying to make crisp passes, be better with our first touches, and be able to work through small pockets of space,” Curtin said. “Against the Red Bulls, whom are a very well coached and organized team, you need to get all of those little things right if you want to break them down. Our offense is something that we’ve worked on this week and I am confident we will get opportunities on goal.”
The Red Bulls snapped a two-match winless run with its 1-0 win over NYCFC after a poor showing at the MLS is Back Tournament. Chris Armas is still getting used to several fresh faces in the squad while key veterans and young players try to take the next step in their leadership roles. Despite losing some players this offseason, the Union will still be prepared for a normal rivalry showdown.
“There was some turnover in this Red Bulls team, but the mentality hasn’t changed,” Union defender Ray Gaddis said. “They’re going to press you and fight to the end. It’s going to be a great rivalry game.”