Cup fever has taken over Philadelphia right now as the Union prepare to try and make history by bringing silverware to PPL Park. To do that, they firstly have to defeat the New York Red Bulls in tomorrow’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarter Final. Over 600 members of the Sons Of Ben will be making the journey with them as the Union look to make it their second win over the Red Bulls this season.
Despite the Union winning 0-2 the last time the two sides met, the Quarter Final will be the first meeting between the two in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup history. The game carries a lot of weight. The Union are set to face the same side in a few games time but for MLS points. A game that could very well influence their play-off hopes. So whilst the Union will want to come away from tomorrow with a win to try and reach the same levels of success in the competition that they have previously, going into an MLS game against a team who’s not only a rival, who you haven’t only knocked out of a Cup but have beaten twice in a year, definitely will give the PPL Park residents a huge psychological edge.
New York have had a fairly simplistic run thus far in comparison to the visitors, with a 3-0 win over the Silverbacks before inflicting revenge on bitter rivals New York Cosmos with a 4-1 win. The Philadelphia Union had to take on the Rhinos in a gruelling 120 minute affair before a win on penalties. They later had to face D.C. United and played a fair chunk of that game a man down. The side still fought back bravely to win 2-1 and reach the Quarter finals. The question is, can the fairytale continue?
The one big disadvantage for the Union will be the absence of star striker C.J Sapong. The youngster who set a franchise record this season is set to serve a one-game suspension following a red card in the 2-1 win over D.C. It’s a thorn in the side for the Union but a situation they’re used to fighting. It’s rare to look back and find a game that the Philadelphia Union haven’t been short handed in some form. From suspensions to star players out with injury, they’ve had it all. Fernando Aristegueta could be set to make a return whilst Connor Casey found the net against Toronto on Saturday to prove that the Union do indeed have options available.
One man who may well be overlooked for being solid in front of the net is Sebastien Le Toux. Still yet to find the back of the net in this years Cup, Le Toux has scored the most in the tournament’s rich history, scoring 14 goals. After recently coming back from injury and a poor performance against Toronto, he will be keen to make up for lost time and find goal number 15.
In terms of a formation, it should see a very similar one to that played against Toronto and indeed most of this campaign. Hometown hero McCarthy should not only get the start and inspire his team due to a great run in the Cup but hopefully command the area. With Blake away on international duty and Sylvestre cup tied, the pressure in on for him to put in a solid performance.
The most notable changes coming from the defence and midfielders. With Andrew Wenger’s premature exit on Saturday, it should once again give young Eric Ayuk a chance to impress and improve. Richie Marquez also had ankle problems and will most probably be replaced by Maurice Edu. Edu should partner Ethan White and will allow Brian Carroll to take over the defensive midfield role.
The heart of the Union’s midfield and indeed team this season has been Chaco Maidana. The Argentine was shut down completely against Toronto, but with so many other variables, if all eyes are on him it allows the widely unknown threat of Ayuk to attack the flanks. Nogueira will provide holding support whilst we suspect Curtin will start Fernando Aristeguieta.
This game marks Philadelphia’s third Quarterfinal appearance in four years. The team thrive in the prestigious trophy, but the Red Bulls are thriving in every competition, winning five of their last six games in all contests. They have only conceded 5 goals in their last 5 MLS fixtures with two of those games being shutouts. Defensively, they are sound. To overcome this, it’s simple. The Union have to wear the defence down. Through a scheme of over the top through balls to keep them on their toes and unpredictable dribbles from the wing, they have to make sure the defence is constantly unsettled. The BIG advantage here, comes in the form of Nando’s return. His greatest asset in his limited field time has been his aerial ability. When going up for the ball, not many can compete with his height. Sapong didn’t have that and the Union had to find new ways to thread the ball through. A back to basics style of looping crosses that Aristeguieta can knock over the top of the keeper will be coming in flurries tomorrow.
Lloyd Sam, has been performing well recently but the main threat comes from Bradley Wright-Phillips. The former Charlton Athletic striker has scored 8 goals this season for the Red Bulls and brings considerable pace to the table. If McCarthy tries some Neuer’esque heroics he will need to be very wary of how fast BWP truly is.
The game should be beyond intense. 90 degree heat and 600 of the most passionate fans in the world, travelling up for a rivalry game. The Philadelphia Union fans will be making all the noise they can to unsettle the home side whilst the hashtag #WeWantTheCup has been doing the rounds recently and rightly so. The Union are probably one of the most consistent teams on paper when you look at the Cup’s history and will be looking to dominate from the start against a team who may want to rest a couple of big names for their game the following day against Chelsea. With Supporters Shield and MLS Cup aspirations dampened, this is the most realistic chance of silverware the team will have this year. Go get it.
New York Red Bulls 1-3 Philadelphia Union
Liam is a 24-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.
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