New York Red Bulls (6-7-2) at Philadelphia Union (4-6-4)
5 p.m. on ESPN
After a 15-day break from MLS play, the Union hit the field at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday to welcome the rival Red Bulls in a nationally televised showdown, hoping to snap a two-game losing streak.
Here are five things to know:
1. Getting to know you
It was only last month when the Union last faced the Red Bulls at home, storming to a 3-0 win behind a C.J. Sapong hat trick to snap a 15-game winless streak and kick off a four-game winning streak. And after Sunday’s game, the Union again face the Red Bulls — on the road, on June 28 — in the U.S. Open Cup.
Union head coach Jim Curtin added that should only add more to the rivalry — though he did say that only a playoff meeting will make it a true rivalry.
“There have been some wild games between us,” he said, “so I think there is a little spice in there for sure.”
2. Injury issues
The Union won’t be completely healthy as they try to slow down stars Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips and the rest of the Red Bulls.
On top of the long-term injuries to Maurice Edu and Brian Carroll, Fabian Herbers (groin) and Warren Creavalle (hamstring) weren’t able to train on Friday while Alejandro Bedoya (hamstring) practiced for a bit but wasn’t included in the projected starting lineup.
The Union captain, fresh off a stint with the U.S. national team (where he sustained the injury), is questionable for the game but Curtin is confident the Union will be fine even if Bedoya can’t go, and even though the team is coming off a 3-1 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the U.S. Open Cup game just four days ago.
“We got through the Open Cup game healthy,” he said. “We were able to manage minutes for certain guys. I think we’ll have fresh legs Sunday against a very good Red Bull team.”
3. Showcase for Jones?
If Bedoya isn’t ready to play, Derrick Jones will likely make his first MLS start since April 8 and his first MLS appearance since the last time Philly faced the Red Bulls on May 6. But the 20-year-old midfielder had a good reason for the absence as he was playing for the U.S. at the Under-20 World Cup. He then followed up a strong international tournament with a goal in Wednesday’s Open Cup win over Harrisburg.
“He has a little bounce in his step in training. He’s been really good,” Curtin said. “Now he steps on field vs. Red Bull and Tyler Adams is out there — two young guys who showed really well at the World Cup and they’ll want to get the better of each other in this game coming up. Derrick's done a great job for us when called upon. He’s a guy I have no problem throwing out there. I think he has grown in maturity from his experience at U-20 World Cup.”
Jones said he has “a lot of confidence” after emerging as a starter at the U-20 World Cup and agreed with his coach that the chance to play against his U-20 teammate Tyler Adams is extra motivation for the weekend.
“We talked at camp and always trashed talk with each other,” he said with a smile. “I can’t wait to see him.”
4. Keep an eye on…
Red Bulls: Everything starts with Kljestan, who leads the team with six assists, and Wright-Phillips, who has a team-high six goals. Slowing them down will be a big test for a Union backline that is still growing as a unit and for goalkeeper Andre Blake, who Curtin hopes will “bail us out a couple of times.”
Union: Haris Medunjanin began to come into his own before leaving for a stint with Bosnia during the international break. He’ll likely need to have another big game for the Union to snap a two-game losing streak, especially if his midfield partner Bedoya is out.
5. This and that
• The Red Bulls have lost six straight road games, the fourth-longest such streak in franchise history.
• The 15 goals the Red Bulls have scored this season are the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only D.C. United and five fewer than the Union.
• The Red Bulls are coming off a 1-0 win over New York City FC in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.
• Bedoya has committed the most fouls in MLS this season with 33.
• After going winless in their first four home games, the Union have won three straight at Talen Energy Stadium. The last time they won at least four straight home games was a five-game streak from Sept. 20, 2015 to April 23, 2016.