Union Matchday 11 Preview: Philly hoping to right the ship with road win at Red Bulls

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

After crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League Semi Finals against LAFC by an aggregate score of 4-1, the Union now have the opportunity to adjust their focus to getting back on track in MLS play.  But they won’t have much time to lick their CCL wounds before traveling North on Saturday night where the Union hope to settle the storm with a road win against long time foe in New York Red Bulls.

 A CCL Heartbreak

Union fans are upset with the way their team went out of the CCL Semi-Finals against Inter-conference rival’s LAFC, and they probably should be.  It’s not necessarily the result that has fans frustrated, but HOW and WHY the blue and gold saw their hopes of being the second MLS club to lift the CCL trophy come to a screeching halt that has fans demanding answers. 

Where is the depth and utilization of the entire roster that was so heavily sold to Union fans before starting the season? Why doesn’t Jim Curtin use his subs he speaks so highly of? Why is 36 year old Ale Bedoya being run til the tank is empty for 90 minutes every game? And where the heck is Andres Perea? These are some of the questions Union fans want answers to, but would probably put on hold if their team can pull out 3 points on the road this weekend. A bad performance or a loss to a regional rival and Red Bulls team currently holding down last place in the Eastern Conference and could see fans’ outlook turn sour quickly. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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2023 MLS Season

Red Bulls fans can’t be happy with the way their season has gone thus far. 10 games in and they currently sit dead last in the Eastern Conference with just 9 points from 1 win, 6 draws and 3 losses. In those 10 games, Red Bulls have only conceded 10 times which is good enough to land them at 3rd best in the East, but have only scored 7 goals themselves, which is tied for second worst in the league.

Amidst their woeful start, Red Bull fans have had to deal with the drama surrounding their new DP striker Dante Vanzier and Head Coach Gerhard Stuber, after Vanzier was suspended for using a racial slur during a match against San Jose Earthquakes. Fans were quick to denounce the actions of Vanzier, but were equally as critical of Stuber, who made the decision not to sub-off the striker, despite the allegations, admission of actions from Vanzier, and pressure from players and coaches from both teams to remove him from the game. 

While I can’t report anything official, I’ve heard that at least one Red Bulls supporters group has had conversations with the club to understand the situation further and have made a vote on whether their group should return to the South Ward this weekend, the section of Red Bull Arena that is dedicated for Red Bulls supporters group.

Based off social media posts, it appears that at least one group has voted to return to the stands with the Union back in town. Union-Red Bulls always feels like a special game because of the geographical connection, but this one feels a bit bigger to me than meetings of the last few years. A win at home against Union could be exactly what the doctor ordered for New York, but it could also be the boiling point as well. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

While I don’t think things are as drastic on the other side with Union, fans certainly are upset and some are losing faith in the one that’s been manning the ship for the last 9 seasons and asking more and more of the upper brass to right the ship. A win at Red Bull wouldn’t solve the issues some fans have with this team right now, but it certainly would help fans from feeling like things are going south for a little bit.


Looking at this Red Bulls team, it’s hard to pick out an X-Factor right now with the form they’re currently in. Not a single player on this team has scored more than 1 singular goal in MLS play, and 2 players have been credited with assists this year, with Crisitian Casseres Jr having 1, and John Tolkin cashing in 4.

But despite their offensive woes, I have to look at former Union striker Cory Burke to be the X-Factor for Red Bulls on Saturday night.  I mean why wouldn’t he be?  It makes so much sense for a guy that Union let walk in order to try and find a consistent starting spot on another MLS team to absolutely punish them in their first meeting since. While Cory Burke isn’t off to a great start so far in a Red Bulls shirt, he did score his first goal in red last weekend when coming off the bench to earn a draw against Chicago Fire with an 89th minute equalizer. 

With playing minimal minutes off the bench and opening his scoring account in the last game, I’d suspect a Cory Burke start against his former club is in order this weekend, and he’ll be looking to test a Union defense that’s been susceptible to mistakes this season with his pace and physicality.  This might be a great game for the re-introduction of Damion Lowe and the demanding presence he brings to the Union backline and starting XI. 

When considering an X-Factor for Union this weekend, my attention isn’t pointed towards someone on the pitch, but someone that’s at the forefront of a lot of fans’ criticism the last few days. Jim Curtin needs a bounce back performance this weekend and badly so. The fixtures aren’t slowing down with the team playing 3 of the next 4 matches on the road.

Will Jim Curtin continue to roll out the same XI that MLS teams have seemed to figure out, or will he utilize the depth and quality of the entire roster like he’s been promising all season? Either way, the next two games and how they’re handled from a coaching perspective are really big.  It feels like something needs to be shaken up, but will it?


I’d love to say the Union are going to walk into Harrison and make Red Bull Arena their home for the weekend like they did last season, but I think this year’s edition is going to play out a bit differently.  While the Red Bulls are having an awful time putting the ball in the back of the net, they actually look pretty decent at keeping their shape and frustrating the attack of their opponents. 

It feels like the perfect opportunity for someone like Damion Lowe or Andres Perea to step into the lineup with Open Cup coming on Tuesday, but I’d assume Union are still without Jose Martine` as well, so that’s a hole that needs to be addressed.

No matter the formation, I’d really like to see Jim use some rotation Saturday night.  This team needs a shake up, and with the Open Cup on tuesday, I’d rather see Union try something different in MLS play, than try it in Open Cup and crash out in the first round for the second straight year.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Red Bulls are going to try and frustrate the Union by pressuring ball carriers, forcing them into mistakes, and trying to counter the other way.  It’s going to take a strong performance from Union to earn a result, but I’m leaning towards this game ending in a 1-1 draw, which is pretty anticlimactic with the energy around both clubs being put into consideration.

It should be a really good, feisty match between two fan bases that desperately want to see their team get 3 points.  Be sure to catch all the action on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV this Saturday at 7:30pm est, but I’d highly suggest making the trip up to jersey to catch the game in person if you’re able to.