Philadelphia Union punched their ticket to the Leagues Cup Round of 16 on Thursday night after Oliver Mbaizo’s PK just snuck past the diving hand of D.C. Keeper Tyler Bono. The win on penalty kicks after a 0-0 score in regulation sent the fans home happy, and now gives them a chance to return to Subaru Park on Monday night to see the Boys in Blue take on a regional rival New York Red Bulls with a chance to earn a spot in the Leagues Cup Quarter-Finals.
Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls Odds
Philadelphia Union -175
New York Red Bulls +130
Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls Betting Odds
2023 Season So Far
2023 has already been an eventful season for Red Bulls. On top of going through an alleged racist-language scandal with new DP striker Dante Vanzier early on in the season, Red Bulls early season mediocre form and fan frustration came to a head after a 1-0 loss at home to Philadelphia Union, which was then Head Coach Gerhard Struber’s last game in charge of Red Bulls.
Under Stuber in the 2023 season, Red Bulls had a record of 1 win, 6 draws, and 4 for a total of 9 points in 11 games. Since his departure and the arrival of Troy Lesesne, Red Bulls have turned things around a bit, with a record of 5 wins, 2 draws, and 5 losses in MLS play for a total of 17 points over 12 games. When you combine the 2 different runs of form together, you’ve got a combined record of 6 wins, 8 draws, and 9 losses for a total of 26 points, which currently has Red Bulls in 11th place in the East, 4 points out of the final playoff spot.
In MLS play, Red Bulls have the 4th lowest amount of goals scored with 22, but are also tied for the 4th fewest goals conceded total in MLS with just 26. Red Bulls don’t score a lot of goals, but they don’t let in a ton of goals either, and have allowed the least amount of shots on target of any team in MLS. Interestingly enough, though they don’t score very often, Red Bulls do have the 6th most total shots in MLS with 314.
So how did Red Bulls get to the Leagues Cup Round of 16? Red Bulls took care of business in Group play against both New England Revolution with a win in Penalty Kicks, and a 2-1 last-minute win against Liga MX’s San Luis. In the first round of the Leagues Cup knockout stage, Red Bulls ran into their cross-town rivals in NYCFC, and after a PK in the 31st minute by Omir Fernandez, New York is Red for the time being and they’ll get their chance to travel down I-95 Monday night to get revenge on Philadelphia for the 121st-minute Jakob Glesnes winner that sent Red Bulls home from the 2021 playoffs.
X-Factors for Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls
When looking at Red Bulls and trying to figure out where the offensive production comes from, there really isn’t one player that stands out against the rest. It’s kind of a full team effort that’s gotten New York to where they are right now, which is pretty low in the MLS standings, but through to the Quarter-Finals of a knock-out competition, a style of play that fits Red Bulls style much better.
Across their 22 goals scored this season, Red Bulls have a total of 12 different players that have pitched in to score those goals, with the team’s top goal scorer going to Frankie Amaya with 4. But it’s not a goal-scorer that I’m looking at to be the X-factor for Red Bulls. Instead, it’s Left Back John Tolkin.
Tolkin leads the team in assists in MLS play with 4, and ranks in the top 80 percentile against other fullbacks in the league in stats such as Total Shots, Assists, Expected Assisted Goals, Shot Creating Actions, Tackles, and Interceptions. Tolkin is second on the team in Expected Assisted Goals, second in total Key Passes, second in total Passes into the final third, and third in total progressive passes.
He is also second on the team in Total Shot Creating Actions, second in total Touches, second in Progressive Carries Distance, and first on the team in passes received. Red Bulls love to flow the attack through Tolkin and keeping him from getting up the pitch with the ball on his feet is going to be very important to keeping Red Bulls locked down.
All eyes on Tai Baribo
On the other side of the ball, I’m going to go with Philadelphia Union’s new guy. Now look – I may be jumping the gun a little bit, but tonight feels like it could be the perfect night to see the introduction of newly acquired Tai Baribo off the bench.
The Philadelphia Union has been missing the presence of a down-hill type forward that makes strong, darting runs into the box late in the game since Cory Burke left for Red Bull last off-season, so what better way to flex the upgrade that Baribo is for that role than tonight against that same Red Bull team?
Well, admittedly, It still might be a bit early for Baribo, even though he has been training with the team. And maybe a game in the forecasted downpour might not be the picturesque introductions Union fans and Baribo were hoping for, but if the stars align and the opportunity is there, it could be a really special night for Baribo to win over Union fans in his first appearance with the club.
How the teams will lineup
I don’t see a ton of reason for Union to switch up the line-up that they rolled out on Thursday night, except maybe to reintegrate Leon Flach who’s missed a couple of games with an injury. Of course in net we’ll have Andre Blake. In front of him, I think we’ll see Kai Wagner on the left, a CB trio of Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott and Damion Lowe, and I think Nate Harriel gets the nod at right back, with John Tolkin for Red Bulls being on that side of the field. Nate’s defensive ability is a little more preferred than Oliver Mbaizo.
In the midfield, despite Leon Flach being available, I don’t really see any reason to switch it up from the Jose Martinez, Daniel Gazdag, and Jesus Bueno setup Curtin has rolled out over the last few games. Leagues Cup has been Bueno’s coming-out party, and I honestly don’t know that Leon Flach being healthy again kicks Bueno from his spot in the XI. It seems like at this point, Jim has 2 or 3 guys he can interchange as the 3rd Midfielder in this 5-3-2 setup between Leon Flach, Jesus Bueno, and Jack McGlynn.
Up top, despite Baribo training with the team this week, I think we’ll see both Carranza and Uhre get the start, with a first cameo of Baribo off the bench late in the game. As I said before, It could present a really awesome opportunity for Baribo to get acquainted with Subaru Park without a whole ton of pressure being placed on him in his first start of a knock-out competition.
Score predictions for Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls
When trying to predict the score, I feel pretty confident in this being a low-scoring game. In their last 7 meetings, only 1 game has been decided by more than 1 goal, with the Philadelphia Union Union beating Red Bulls on the road 2-0 last season.
Other than that, there have been three 1-0 games, all won by the Philadelphia Union, and 3 1-1 draws. In those 7 games, there have also been 4 games where a Red Card was issued, with the Red Card being issued to Red Bulls 3 of the 4 times.
Like I said, I expect this to be one of those frustrating, low-scoring games, where subs and late-game moves by the head coach will play a huge impact on who advances to the Leagues Cup Quarter-Finals. I hate to say it, but I could very well see this game heading to PK’s again but in the hope of saving myself some anxiety. I’m going to say that Union win the game by a score of 2-1, with goals coming from Daniel Gazdag and newly acquired Tai Baribo off the bench, and advance to the next round.
The forecast is calling for rain and thunderstorms, and lots of it, so make sure you pack a rain jacket if you’re heading down to Subaru Park tonight and be prepared for some delays. Hopefully, we’ll get a game in tonight and the Philadelphia Union is able to keep their Leagues Cup dreams alive. Make sure to tune in to all the action tonight on MLS Season Pass via Apple TV at 7:30 pm EST.
Be sure to return to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union