Match #18 Preview: Philadelphia Union At New York Red Bulls

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 18: Sebastien Le Toux #9 of the New York Red Bulls looks on agaisnt Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena on July 18, 2012 in Harrison, New Jersey. Red Bulls defeated the Fire 1-0. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

Setting: Saturday, July 21 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ; kickoff scheduled for just after 2:30 PM Eastern

Broadcast Information: ESPN/TSN2 (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman), ESPN Deportes, and RDS2 nationally in the U.S. and Canada / SportsRadio 610 WIP (Tony Limarzi, Peter Pappas) in Philadelphia / WLIB-AM 1190 (Robert Sierra, Nelson Rubio, Marvin Sandoval) in New York / ESPN3/WatchESPN app in the U.S.

New York's Record: 10-5-5 (second in East)

New York's Last Match: W, 1-0 vs. Chicago

Philadelphia vs. New York This Season: 0-1-0 (New York 3 @ Philadelphia 2 on May 13)

For the New York Perspective, Visit Once A Metro

The Philadelphia Union's hot streak continued last week, as they somehow managed to defeat the visiting Montreal Impact after getting outplayed for large swaths of the match, then conceding an own-goal equalizer in the 89th minute only to have Carlos Valdes regain the lead in stoppage time. They are riding a three-match winning streak for the first time in franchise history. And the schedule is finally starting to slow down a little bit for the Union, who complete a run of nine matches in four weeks tomorrow afternoon as they visit rival New York Red Bulls. There was already great anticipation building for tomorrow's match in recent weeks, but it was taken to another level last Friday when the Red Bulls acquired former Union All-Star Sebastien Le Toux. The combination of the dislike for the Red Bulls and the bitter feeling that remains about Le Toux's departure probably needs no further explanation, although most Union fans would probably tell you their bitterness isn't exactly directed towards Le Toux.

Despite starting their season with two losses, the Red Bulls have had a consistently solid 2012, including reaming off impressive three-match and five-match winning streaks. They are particularly lethal at Red Bull Arena, where they are unbeaten (6-0-3). Only the Houston Dynamo remain unbeaten at home as well. The Red Bulls have only won two of their last eight, though they've also only lost two in their last eight, with the other four being draws. Not a terrific run, per se, but certainly good enough to keep them in the running for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls are rather banged up, though, missing regular contributors like starting goalie Ryan Meara, Teemu Tainio, Heath Pearce, Jan Gunnar Solli, as well as Rafa Marquez. However, Thierry Henry might be getting back on track, and a partnership between Le Toux and Thierry Henry seems to be building, with Le Toux feeding Henry for what ended up being a spectacular winning goal on Wednesday afternoon against Chicago. It was Henry's first goal since April 28 -- a span of twelve matches. The combination of Henry, Le Toux, and Kenny Cooper (11 goals this season) can do more than enough to mask those injuries. Hummelstown native Bill Gaudette will get the start in goal for New York with Meara recovering from a hip injury.

Philadelphia had its hands full with Marco Di Vaio last week against Montreal -- it's only due to some luck and some brilliance from Zac MacMath that he couldn't finish anything -- and Henry and Cooper aren't going to be any different. (Though the flag probably won't be going up on them as much as it did for Di Vaio.) If the Union don't stay a little more compact in the back, they're likely to get burned, and burned badly. The Red Bulls have scored the most goals in the Eastern Conference for good reason. John Hackworth's probably hoping that resting Jack McInerney against Aston Villa on Wednesday will help him recover a little bit after instantly going from playing almost never to playing almost always. It's hard to tell with McInerney, who doesn't always make hard runs when he deems it not necessary to begin with (for example, when the opposing goalkeeper has the ball in space and is looking around at his options, McInerney won't always make the basically-worthless-but-nonetheless-perfunctory run towards the keeper), but his legs looked like they were especially heavy as the match against Montreal wore on. The playoffs are still relatively distant for the Union, who are eleven points behind the Chicago Fire and fifth seed in the East with three matches in hand, so picking up a point or three tomorrow afternoon remains almost a necessity.

Projected starters, injury reports, and assorted match notes after the jump...

Likely starters:

Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Gomez, Carroll, Lahoud; Adu, Pajoy, McInerney

New York: Gaudette; Miller, Conde, Holgersson, Barklage; Lindpere, Ballouchy, McCarty, Le Toux; Cooper, Henry

Injury updates:

For Philadelphia, Krystian Witkowski (concussion symptoms) is unavailable. Bakary Soumare (right knee menisectomy recovery) did not travel with the team either. Michael Farfan (right groin strain), Zach Pfeffer (left quad contusion), and Chandler Hoffman (left big toe fracture) are "questionable". Cristhian Hernandez (left ankle sprain) is listed as "probable".

For New York, Teemu Tainio (right knee sprain), Jose Angulo (right knee sprain), Heath Pearce (right hamstring injury), Jan Gunnar Solli (right hamstring injury), Rafa Marquez (left calf injury), and Ryan Meara (right hip injury) are all unavailable.

Of note:

  • Hilario Grejeda is listed as tomorrow's match referee. In 70 career MLS matches, Grejeda has called an average of 24.5 fouls per match, given an average of 3.6 yellow cards per match, handed out a total of 14 red cards, and has awarded a total of 11 penalty kicks.
  • Joel Lindpere, Dax McCarty, and Carlos Valdes are all one yellow card away from receiving an automatic one-match disciplinary suspension for yellow card accumulation.
  • Tomorrow's match will be the first ever MLS match broadcast by the Union on local radio. Tony Limarzi and Peter Pappas (whose voices will be familiar if you tuned into either of the Union's U.S. Open Cup livestreams) will be on SportsRadio 610 WIP from 2:30 PM Eastern. Starting tomorrow, team will provide radio coverage for 11 of the final 17 matches of the season on 610 WIP. (Full schedule, subject to change.) Union fans may still love Taylor Twellman, but tomorrow afternoon, mute ESPN and pull out the radio or use the Radio.com app to listen in.
  • Wednesday was the first shutout for the Red Bulls since they beat the Dynamo 1-0 on May 9, ten matches ago.
  • The Red Bulls are a remarkable 31-0-11 under Hans Backe when they score first, including a sterling 7-0-2 record so far this season. If the Union want to steal three points, they're going to have to score first.
  • The Red Bulls only faced one shot from Chicago on Wednesday, the second time this season they've held a team's offense that well in check (although the only shot that they gave up on June 20 in Vancouver went in for a 1-1 draw).
The Union look to break out of ninth place in the Eastern Conference as they visit Sebastien Le Toux and the New York Red Bulls, who would take command of first place in the Eastern Conference (albeit possibly only for a few hours) with a victory. If you're heading up to Red Bull Arena tomorrow, enjoy the match, otherwise we hope you can join us for a gamethread!
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