“Is there blood and bad blood in it? Yeah.” New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union

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The New York Red Bulls take on the Philadelphia Union in 2016 in Chester, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Charlotte Thomas)

Coming off of a tight 1-0 victory in the U.S. Open Cup rendition of the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the New York Red Bulls will travel to take on the Philadelphia Union. The match marks the second time the two teams meet in regular MLS play and the Red Bulls will be looking for revenge.

The last time the two teams met on May 6th, Philadelphia was without a win and stuck in the basement of the Eastern Conference. Despite the Red Bulls having been shaky on the road it was a guaranteed win right? In true New York fashion, where their level of play dumbs down to struggling opponents, the Red Bulls lost 3-0 with C.J. Sapong grabbing a hattrick. With the win, the Union carried on a four game winning streak.

Now to head off any detractors, this is by no means a slight against the Union but rather a means to highlight the historical shakiness of the Red Bull franchise against lower table teams. Something which New York cannot afford to dwell on. This season’s record on the road will be all but impossible to shake from the hearts and minds of the players.

With a 1-0 loss in their last away match to Montreal, the Red Bulls have lost six of their seven road games this season. Dismal is the only adjective appropriate to describe the current state of affairs on the road with the team struggling to find the back of the net. When your back is against the wall where do you go? If you’re Jesse Marsch, you press forward and force a change of results via sheer determination.

In trying to take some of the sting out of the rivalry, manager Jesse Marsch suggested in training on Friday that “we’re [the team]a bigger rival to them than they are to us”. The tactic of attempting to downplay the match could be seen as a confidence booster for the players themselves, taking some of the pressure off of them. But regardless, they will be out to seek revenge.

Marsch, while seeming to take this match a bit lightly, noted the significance of the rivalry in the Open Cup setting which is slated for June 28th

“Is there blood and bad blood in it? Yeah.”, Marsch added.

But the Open Cup match is a story for another day. This is the present and the Red Bulls must steady the ship if they hope to make the playoffs come season’s end. That won’t be for some time but with the team currently in seventh in the East, they are hanging on by a thread to a playoff berth. The time is now to alter their fortunes.

The good news is New York leads the series all time with an 11-6-3 record. But in Chester, Pennsylvania the team has only managed four wins which puts a bit of a damper on things. Can the Red Bulls win? Absolutely, but that would require the big guns to step up. Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has had an unusually quiet campaign thus far scoring a mere six goals while playmaker Sacha Kljestan has matched the tally with assists. Will this be the night where New York’s designated players link up to produce a bit of flair and magic? They’ve done it before in Philadelphia and could do it again.

While the midfield has been by far New York’s best asset this season, the defense will be pivotal in bringing stability to the team. The Red Bull’s last outing saw Aaron Long playing left back in Kemar Lawrence’s absence with the French duo of Damien Perrinelle and Aurelien Collin at center back. With Lawrence returning from action with the Jamaican national team, he is expected to return to the Red Bull lineup. So who will feature? Given Perrinelle’s propensity for conceding penalties, expect to see Long lineup with Collin.

Fans can only hope this will (finally), be the turning point for the Red Bulls on the offensive and defensive end of things on the road.

The New York Red Bulls will travel to take on the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, June 18th at 5 pm EST. This is an Eastern Conference rivalry not to be missed.

Special thanks to Brian Fonseca for furnishing interviews.

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