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Philadelphia Union: The Playoff Picture, An Eastern Conference Showdown

Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya engaging Diego Rossi (LAFC) | Photo by Philadelphia Union | September 14, 2019

On Sunday night, the Philadelphia Union are looking to better the New York Red Bulls in an Eastern Conference showdown at Red Bull Arena. The home-side is coming off an important three points after successive poor results saw their Eastern Conference standing slide over the past few weeks. While the Union are looking to surpass the level that has seen them record seven points in the last three matches, including a draw against Los Angeles FC.

Philadelphia Union

Kacper Przybylko (Philadelphia Union) acknowledging the crowd after scoring | Photo by Philadelphia Union | September 14, 2019


The Union will be playing against a RBNY side that currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference. And as a side must finish within the top seven spots of each conference, to get into the playoffs, a well organized RBNY side is the very least that can be expected in the upcoming match for the Union.

This is especially true when you consider the wealth of experience that the Red Bulls have in a player like Bradley Wright-Phillips. While his current statistics don’t permit for pleasant reading, he has two goals and three assists from 20 league matches, his ability to get his side ready for massive matches has always been a big advantage for RBNY. Additionally, his lack of scoring is not surprising, as the Red Bulls have begun to rely on several other players for their scoring and play-making. As Daniel Royer, Brian White and Alejandro Romero Gamarra have begun to carry the load by scoring more regularly, with a respective ten, nine and five goals.

New York Red Bulls

Daniel Royer of the New York Red Bulls celebrates his goal with teammates | Photo by New York Red Bulls | September 19, 2019

Romero Gamarra, who goes by Kaku, has taken over a majority of BWP’s attacking responsibilities. Leading Jim Curtin to believe that he is the player that “makes them go.” He is able to do this by driving at back lines, getting his head up, and then playing the final ball.

A side graced with this much fire-power should be heeded with a lot of reverence going forward, but it is their goalkeeper that has kept them in the playoff picture. Luis Robles has had several big matches this year but in a recent fixture, against the Colorado Rapids, he had three big saves that kept them in the match. This is something that he will certainly look to do against the Union. While the Union will only hope to limit his influence – taking down that goals against average (1.57) in the process.


Below are five ways that the Union can ensure they get all three points against RBNY:

  1. Prevent Kaku from attacking with his head up. Doing so will change the way the Red Bulls attack, as Kaku will need more time and space to operate – limiting the overall quality of their attack.
  2. Get an early goal. Red Bulls’ true strength is their defense, with USMNT Starter Aaron Long, and Robles they tend to benefit from not conceding first, and sitting back when they are able to score – taking away this “comfort zone” leads to RBNY chasing matches, something that they haven’t proved they are able to do this season.
  3. Attack the left (RBNY’s right side of their defense). Against the Timbers the right side of their team appeared to tire early. With the movement of Brenden Aaronson, the crossing of Kai Wagner, and the ability to bring on Ilsinho – the Union have the ability to leverage this against the Red Bulls.
  4. Limit the Red Bull counters by dominating possession. As RBNY lines up to defend more often than they do to attack, possessing the ball an average of 46.1 percent throughout their past ten matches, the Union are more than likely going to dominate possession. In these possessions the Union will need to play smart first time passes, limiting the number of times the Red Bulls see the ball in space – where they are most successful when attacking.
  5. Stay away from fouling near goal. As previously mentioned, RBNY don’t tend to score through constant pressure but from quick strikes – providing them extra opportunities to score will only make it more difficult to get a result.


The major predictions for the match:

Predicted Union Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) – Blake; Gaddis, Elliott, McKenzie, Wagner; Bedoya, Medunjanin; Picault, Monteiro, Aaronson; Przybylko

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Predicted RBNY Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) – Robles; Duncan, Parker, Long, Lawrence; Davis, Cásseres Jr.; Sims, Kaku, Royer; Wright-Phillips

Predicted Result: Philadelphia Union 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls 

  • First, Union score early. 
    • Making RBNY chase the game.
  • Then, Union score on the counter.
  • Finally, RBNY score a late consolation.

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