For those of us who stayed up super late for the 2-2 LAFC draw, my hats off to you. In all honesty, this writer fell asleep way before kickoff and woke up with 20 minutes left to go, similar to the game in 2020 with a similar result. All that being said, it was one hell of a game between the two teams at the top of their conferences. After a few road games, the Union finally returns for a two-game homestand, starting with this Saturday’s game against an all too familiar team the New York Red Bulls. Let’s take get this Union Preview going for this big matchup.
Union Preview: Can Philly turn it around vs Red Bull?
No matter how the teams are doing in the standings, these two teams manage to put on some fantastic games in recent memory. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Union walked away victorious on the latest goal scored in MLS history to advance to the eastern conference semifinals. It may be a new year but let us look at this Red bull side to see how they are faring to this point in the season, the player to watch out for, and the prediction for what is sure to be an exciting game.
2022 MLS Season
The 2022 New York Red Bulls are a very interesting team in the fact that they seem to be two different teams, the home NYRB and the road NYRB. To this point in the season, through ten games, they have accumulated a record of 5-2-3 for five wins, two losses, and three draws for eighteen points and second place in the eastern conference, one point behind the Union. That record though hides the difference in road form versus home form.
Most teams typically do better at home than on the road but not this red bull team so far. They have a 5-0-0 road record and a 0-2-3 home record. No team in MLS history has won their first six road games of the season, which does make for an interesting matchup this game. The one thing consistent with this red bull team is the lack of consistency from the forwards. They do not seem to have a true number nine and tend to score by committee. It is a trend that bucks the underlying stats for the team.
The player that the Union needs to keep an eye on is someone who like Julian Carranza has found a change of scenery to the mid-Atlantic to be a good career move. This person in question would be his former Inter Miami teammate and Scotland international Lewis Morgan. This is Morgan’s first season with the Red Bulls, having been acquired in the offseason from Inter Miami in exchange for over one million in allocation money. To this point in the season, Morgan has four goals and two assists through ten games which is a stable output and similar to Carranza’s numbers. What I like about Morgan is his ability to take defenders on 1v1 and force them to make a move. He has a solid pace to get in behind and loves to combine with his teammates to create solid chances.
One of the biggest changes that I have seen from his time at Inter Miami to NYRB is his willingness to get the team involved in the attack. When he was at Inter Miami, it felt like he needed to take everything himself because Gonzalo was not going to finish the chances he provided. He is someone who either Kai or Nate will need to keep a close eye on as he typically plays on the wing and cuts in to create his chances. If the Union can limit his chances and force the midfield to step up, they might be able to stop this Red Bull away form in its tracks.
This game will be interesting because both teams have a midweek Open Cup game. The Union have already tipped their hand and will be rotating a number of players for that game, which means that they will have their typical starting lineup for the game on Saturday. The one thing in this three-game draw streak that the Union has been unable to do is to keep a consistent defensive pressure for 90 minutes.
There has been one moment that there has been a lapse in coverage or defensive awareness which has led to a late goal to equalize the game. While that is a trend that could be concerning for some, I believe that the Union will weather that storm and come out strong at home against a team that they know all too well. In years past, most Union-NYRB games are not high scoring and I am not sure if this game will change that. I see the Union ending the Red Bulls’ perfect away form with a 2-1 victory. Game time on Saturday night is 7:30 pm.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych