MLS Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union
• The New York Red Bulls are fighting an injury bug, as both Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill missed last week’s game. Henry should be ready for Saturday, and while Cahill’s status remains more questionable, he could also feature.
• The Philadelphia Union has lost all five games it has played at Red Bull Arena. On March 30, New York squeaked out a 2-1 win when Philadelphia was 10 minutes away from a point — the closest it has come to getting a result in the Big Apple.
• With last week’s 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew, New York dropped to second place in the East, while Philadelphia’s 2-0 win over D.C. United vaulted it into third. The winner of this game will take over first place, at least until Sporting Kansas City plays on Sunday.
Both the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union have won three of their last five games, and they sit in second and third place, respectively, in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. While New York has been near the top all season, Philadelphia can leapfrog the Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City to get into first place for the first time in 2013.
Philadelphia will have nearly a full complement of players when the two meet on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), while New York is missing several big names. Thierry Henry (Achilles soreness) should be 100 percent before kickoff, and there’s an outside chance Tim Cahill (torn PCL) could be available, but Heath Pearce (hip surgery) and Kosuke Kimura (concussion) are still out.
Add in Conor Casey’s goal threat for Philadelphia, and the Red Bulls’ depleted back line could be in for a tough test. Goalkeeper Luis Robles and center back stalwart Jámison Olave (pictured) will need to deal with the Union’s attack, which is predicated on aerial balls toward Casey and through balls to Jack McInerney. When these teams met in March, Casey scored the only goal for Philadelphia.
McInerney’s scoreless streak is up to 10 games after he failed to tally against D.C. last weekend. The weight on his shoulders won’t get any lighter until he gets back off the mark, but he will have to find a way through the imposing central pair of Olave and Markus Holgersson to do it in this game.
New York seems to have marginally more momentum heading into the game, unbeaten in its last four before falling to the Crew last weekend. The Red Bulls have a more potent attack despite having scored the same number of goals as the Union, and New York has never lost to Philadelphia (or tied) at Red Bull Arena.