For the last time in 2017, the New York Red Bulls take on the Philadelphia Union, and for the first time in New York. The series is locked at a 1-0-1 record this season, though both games occurred in Philadelphia. For the Red Bulls, this game is a great chance to solidify one of the last playoff spots, as the fight for 6th heats up. For the Union, however, it’s a chance to make a statement against its closest rival. While the playoffs is a bit of long-shot for the Union, there is still a possibility to make 6th place. It will take 6 consecutive wins for the Union to even have a shot at the playoffs, and still it will be no sure thing. While this game might have more significance for the Red Bulls, the Union has shown it plans on fighting at full strength no matter the significance.
New York could be considered to be in a down year in 2017. Despite playing some strong soccer at times, this season can’t compare to some of the previous years. Perhaps the loss of Dax McCarty has allowed players like Sean Davis and Tyler Adams to grow, but his absence is noticed. Despite winning the Supporter’s Shield last season, an underwhelming playoff performance marred what could have been a great year for the Red Bulls. While the Shield is a great indicator of yearlong performance, it cannot measure against an MLS Cup, which is the Red Bulls prime focus. As we saw last year, all it takes is a good run from a 6th place side to raise the Cup, and be crowned champions of America. For the Red Bulls, perhaps a strong regular season isn’t the goal, but a late run, which could end up overshadowing a subpar 2017.
In recent matches, the Red Bulls have struggled to take 3 points. But having played only 2 of the last 5 at home, Sunday’s home match will be a big boost for the team in 6th place. In that span of 5 games, the Red Bulls are 1-3-1. In the last two matches, the Red Bulls tied Chicago and Dallas. In both of those matches, the Red Bulls had a lead, but lost it in the second half. A win against a Union side that struggles to get a result will weight heavily on Red Bull manager Jesse Marsch. Anything but 3 points will allow Montreal to move within striking distance, and a chance at the last playoff spot.
For the Union, things are never as they seem. In the last 5 matches, Philadelphia has gone 0-3-2. Allowing 11 goals. But the results doesn’t paint the whole picture. The Union threw away 4 points in stoppage time, allowing draws against San Jose and Atlanta in the dying moments. The only really poor outing was the 3-0 loss to Toronto, where the Union never looked satisfactory on either side of the pitch. The 3-0 loss to Montreal came down to the wire, with the Union looking likely to strike until Monreal took 2 on the break in stoppage time. All things considered, the Union has allowed 4 goals in stoppage time in the last 5 matches. The team could easily have won 4 out of those 5 games. The 1-1 draw last week in Minnesota, while not as heart-breaking as the draws to Atlanta and San Jose, it was still a match that the Union should have won.
Now with playoffs a distant dream, the Union need to find some semblance of unity to take into 2018. The team hasn’t played poorly, but when it comes down to it, results are the only thing that matters to a team or fanbase.