Red Bull was a playoff team last year, but they’ve leapfrogged to second in the East this year. What’s new?
A lot of little things coming together. The most notable in recent weeks has been the literally little Luquinhas, the diminutive Brazilian midfielder who has sparked New York’s attack since settling in from his transfer away from Legia Warsaw. But a variety of small adjustments to the squad (Lewis Morgan has also been a key new signing) and formational approach (Struber has largely settled on a 5-man backline) as well as the average age of the team maturing slightly have put the Red Bulls in a much stronger position this season.
The Union seems to be playing some classic games over the past few weeks with their games against Nashville, LAFC, and now RBNY. Is there any revenge factor for how Jakob Glesnes and the Union sent Red Bull home last playoffs?
While the fans and players will undoubtedly see some scores to settle in this matchup, manager Gerhard Struber had some interesting thoughts on Philadelphia and what the emerging rivalry with them means to his team:
“I always love to play against Philadelphia, we are not always successful against them, but games against Philadelphia, let us grow, let us develop in a good direction. They show us always some gaps and what we have to improve and I hope the gaps on Saturday are not so big.”
Struber clearly respects what Jim Curtin and Ernst Tanner have built with a high-pressing team that can seamlessly integrate youth talents, and hopes to have New York there soon. But in the meantime, he would likely relish a win over Philadelphia more than any other team, heightening a certain sense of revenge in the equation tonight.
Where’s Red Bull’s biggest strength? How are they so good on the road?
A high-pressing team like the Red Bulls relies on the other team taking risks and making mistakes, and find a much easier time generating such play when opponents are in their home stadiums. Struber’s pressing scheme has been dominant since the latter part of last year, with the Red Bulls rarely conceding possessions and shots let alone goals. Curtin will be more aware of these risks against New York than most, but the Union will have to remain organized and focused to prevent the Red Bulls from finding weaknesses in both their buildup and their defensive recovery.
What are your lineup and score predictions?
Lineup: Coronel, Tolkin, S. Nealis, Long, Edwards, D. Nealis, Amaya, Yearwood, Luquinhas, Barlow, Klimala
Prediction: despite the tendency for both teams to play aggressively, games between these two have mostly been tactical and cagey in recent years. I’ll go ahead and predict a 0-0 draw as both teams bring their A-game...which results in attacking play being largely neutered.