It’s almost been a full year since then Talen Energy Stadium was rocking after a deflected cross from Marco Fabian kissed the crossbar and went into the back of the net. The Union won their first-ever playoff match 4-3 against the New York Red Bulls. Now 310 days later, the Union will take to their home field, now dubbed Subaru Park, to take on the Red Bulls in their second match of phase one of the MLS’ restarted regular season.
The Union just happen to play the team they beat almost a year ago, the New York Red Bulls. After the Union drew on the road against New England, they’ll go for their first three points of the restart. Here are three things to watch for in the Union’s first home game of 2020.
A freshness to the Union’s lineup
In the MLS is Back Tournament and in their first game of the regular season restart, the Union rolled out the same starting 11. It was their strongest team, so it made sense, but in the Union’s last two matches the starting 11 did not produce. This prompted Jim Curtin to say in his midweek press conference to expect some freshness infused into the starting lineup.
I’d expect the keeper and backline to be the normal starters. Blake has been the best keeper in MLS in 2020, and Gaddis, Elliot, McKenzie, and Wagner have been stellar. The changes will come in the midfield and up top, but who could we see in the start 11 that has not normally been there?
I’d imagine that Andrew Wooten gets a start at striker for Kacper Przybylko. Kacper has struggled recently, and Andrew has been praised this week as pushing for minutes. This takes our attention to the midfield. The starting four have been stellar in the MLS is Back Tournament and the regular season. As much as I think the normal midfield diamond would be best for this match, I’d expect we will see some sort of shakeup. Whether that be Fontana for Aaronson or Oravec for Martinez, if there needs to be some kind of freshness infused into this team, then the midfield is likely to look different.
I’d expect to see some changes in the starting 11, as many as three from the Union’s last match against New England.
Is the youthful Red Bulls core for real?
The Red Bulls did not do well in the MLS is Back Tournament. Their team is mainly constructed of a young core. They didn’t look for real in Orlando, but they did get the better of NYCFC in their return to the MLS regular season. The young players were lauded by head coach Chris Armas after beating NYCFC 1-0.
The Red Bulls were able to shut down the attack of NYCFC thanks to the centerback pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker. The pairing was once one of the best in the league, and shutting down their rivals in a derby will mean their confidence is flying high heading into their matchup with the Union.
The Red Bulls were able to control the match against NYCFC outshooting them. While they were only able to find one goal, Marc Rzatkowski and Daniel Royer led the line and looked promising. Royer has noticed how the Red Bulls young core has been progressing in training, and now they’re seeing that translate into wins.
Now the Red Bulls will look to keep things going against Philly. They have not been at their best, but they will need to find ways to beat the Union’s fast-paced pressing system.
Home field Advantage?
The Union are finally playing a home match following their electric playoff win, but will it really feel like a home game? Now that MLS is shifting back to games in home markets, we’ve seen the empty stadiums. Will this have an effect on the way teams play in their home buildings? The Union have prospered off of their home crowd rallying the team to push for a win. Without that, will the Union look the same?
This past weekend Portland hosted Seattle in an eerie empty Providence Park. The Sounders came in and won 3-0. The Union will have to fight and control the tempo against New York Red Bulls if they want to show who they are when they play at home. For Philly, they will need to play well at home to stay on pace with the contenders in the eastern conference.
With a shortened regular season, every game and result matters. Limited home games mean the Union will need good results on their home field to carry them. As of right now, the Union sit just outside the top four and are seven points off of first place. The Red Bulls are one point above Philly.
This is a huge match for both teams; but from a Union perspective, they need to show a progression from their play in the MLS is back tournament. Playing a match at home for the first time in 310 days should give them the momentum to show that they belong at the top of the eastern conference.
Don’t miss the action tonight at 7:30 pm!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.