Match previews

Match preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Who: New York Red Bulls (6th place, 41 points, 12-10-5) vs. Philadelphia Union (10th place, 32 points, 8-12-8)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
When: Sunday, September 17, 1:00 p.m.
Watch: ESPN

While Philadelphia Union fan apathy reaches new heights, New York Red Bulls are looking to stay above the red line and cement their playoff position. After three straight draws – two of them on the road – Red Bulls will be eager for three points back home in Sunday’s only nationally-broadcast game.

Projected NYRB lineup


Scouting report: New York Red Bulls

Between league and Open Cup matches, the Union have seen plenty of the red half of New York this season.

Recently, though, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch has added a new wrinkle to his high-pressing system by employing a tricky 3-4-3 formation. Since late July, the four-man diamond midfield has enabled Sacha Kljestan to push further forward and combine with the Red Bulls’ front line.

The results have been mixed (mostly due to some tough losses to the other New York team), but the team’s offense has been much more potent and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is back scoring at a searing pace.

The bad news for the Union is that this shape yields a much narrower attack where the Red Bulls can create a man advantage in the middle of the field – precisely where Philadelphia is most vulnerable.

  • Injury report: OUT – Gideon Bah, Mike Grella, Daniel Royer, Aurelien Colin
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Projected Union lineup

Ideally, Sunday’s match would be an opportunity to give the Union’s youth movement and Homegrowns MLS match minutes versus a worthy opponent. Auston Trusty, Marcus Epps, Adam Najem, and Derrick Jones all need/deserve playing time as another futile season winds down. In reality, Jim Curtin will likely go with a mix of youth and vets to start the game in Harrison.

Adam Najem is the most intriguing name of the bunch. With Ilsinho and Roland Alberg likely on their way out the door, Najem is the only young talent in a position of serious need. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, he has yet to dictate a game the way the Union’s system requires. Sunday not only offers Najem a chance to play against his former club, but cement his first-team status for 2018.

  • Injury report: QUESTIONABLE  – Josh Yaro (knee swelling)
  • Suspended: Oguchi Onyewu (yellow card accumulation)
Key matchup

Alejandro Bedoya vs. Sacha Kljestan

After a long absence thanks to international duty and suspension, the Union’s captain will be back on the field and tasked with shutting down one of the league’s best playmakers. If the Union win this game, it will only happen if Bedoya can make life difficult for the tip of Red Bulls’ 3-4-3 diamond.

Player to watch

The youngsters

Will Jim Curtin let the playoff pipe dream go and play the kids? We shall see. If they get a run out, the Union’s staff and fans will have a better gauge of who will be around to contribute to the Union next season.

Prediction: New York 2-0 Philadelphia

The Red Bulls have playoffs and, after years of futility, a potential dual trophy year to play for. The Union… not so much. With little on the line except dignity, expect a rout by New York.


  1. The Union are on ESPN twice in three weeks; this game, and then vs. Seattle. We’re now being booked as the enhancement talent for the marquee clubs.

  2. Najem played almost ninety in Louisville for the Steel..
    Edu did not travel to Louisville

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