The Union has dropped seven points from their last possible 12. That’s one win, two draws, and one loss since coming back from the international break. This Thursday, Philly travels to New York Red Bulls. The Union sits in third place in the east. If they want to stay continue to push for the top, then they will need to get more from matches they should win. Is this Union match at New York Red Bulls a must-win?
An early-season must-win?
While the MLS season is not yet at the halfway point, the Union’s shaky play coming off an international break is making things seem a bit dire. The stretch that included matches against Atlanta, Columbus, Chicago, and Nashville, should have yielded more points than it did. At least that is the thought process of the fans. Each of these teams is below the Union in the standings, and so is the next opponent New York Red Bulls.
Philly will be looking to get back to winning ways against a rival in the eastern conference. Is it a must-win match this early in the season? Let’s take a look at that while also diving deeper into both teams’ recent run of form.
New York Red Bull’s form
The Red Bulls have taken seven points from a possible 12 since returning from the international break. This is a team that has had some early-season struggles but is looking to turn a corner. They won their first away match this past weekend beating Orlando City. New York has also won four of its five home matches in this 2021 season.
USA youngster Caden Clark leads the team in goal, while strikers Fabio and Patryk Kilmala have been providing more assists than goals. This is a decent team when it comes to scoring and defending. Red Bulls are eighth in goals per match and 15th in goals conceded per match. They average 1.5 goals scored a game, and let up 1.3 a game. This would suggest they are about average and the table would agree with that as they sit in seventh place out of 14 eastern conference teams.
Gone are the days of the star-studded New York Red Bulls that were competing for trophies. Here are the days of a New York team that is a playoff-caliber side, whose style of play can help them punch above their weight should the team be consistent and coherent.
Right now the Union is better than the Red Bulls, but based on current form, that doesn’t produce much confidence.
Union’s struggles since the international break
The Union’s struggles since the international break have been self-inflicted mistakes that take them out of their game plan. Whether it be conceding on set-pieces, or early in matches, Philly seems to have developed the trait of switching off for short moments in matches. The opposition is making them pay when that happens.
Philly is a team that is built to press, and play with a lead. Once they have a lead they have shown they can choke their opposition out with their press. They like to make teams chase games. In the past few matches, this has not happened. Conceding in the second minute while playing away at Chicago and Nashville made things very difficult. Those were matches that the Union was expected to win, and they came up short in both. It’s even worse when you see how the teams ahead of the Union in the standings also dropped points over the last two weekends. If Philly didn’t have those mental lapses and was able to get all three points in those matches, then they’d be up at the top of the eastern conference standings.
Now the Union heads into another away match where they are the better team. Will they be able to get back to playing their game, and cut out the mental mistakes? Philadelphia will need to if they want to be a Red Bulls side that’s trending in the right direction. The Red Bulls play the same way Philly does, the key to the match will be who can control the middle of the field.
Now we move on to the question at hand is the match against New York Red Bulls a must-win game?
Is this match a must-win?
The Philadelphia Union is 10 games away from the midpoint of their 2021 MLS season. This is a marathon of a contest, not a sprint. With that being said, it is understandable to ask the question if this is a must-win game for Philadelphia should they want to keep pace with Orlando and New England. The answer to this question right now is no.
This is not a must-win game for Philadelphia. However, taking all three points from rivals New York Red Bulls coming off of a bad loss could be the catalyst for another unbeaten run for this Union side. Philly needs to have a dominant performance to turn things around. A win at Red Bull, a team that hasn’t lost at home since their first match of the season could be just that. For this to happen, the Union will need strong performances from some players who have had little playing time.
The Union will be without two regular starters and a bench player in this match. keeper Andre Blake, striker Cory Burke, and right back Alvas Powell. All three are in training camp with Jamaica for their upcoming Gold Cup campaign. This leaves some major holes for Philly to fill. Their starting goalkeeper who can single handily keep them in games (Blake), and their leading goalscorer (Burke) will not play in this one. Can the Union recover?
They’ll likely call upon homegrown keeper, Matt Freese, and speedy striker, Sergio Santos to come in and show what they have. Both were crucial at times for the 2020 Supporters Shield winning team last season, and they’re going to be called upon again. I see the Union lining up this way:
Freese; Wagner, Glesnes, Elliot, Mbaizo; Flach, Monteiro, Bedoya, Gazdag; Santos, Przybylko.
This team will allow the Union to have their most dynamic midfield. That will make the difference in this match. It won’t look the best, but if the Union’s midfield diamond can best the Red Bulls midfield diamond, then Philly should be able to find the chances to score and win this match.
I see the Union getting it done in a wild match that is low-scoring. In the end, the match will end 1-0 as Dániel Gazdag gets his first goal as a Union player and secures all three points for Philly. Will this happen? We’ll all have to watch on Thursday night to see!
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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire