Preview: Red Bulls, Union Clash with Playoff Fates in Limbo

NY will battle Union for a playoff spot in front of a sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena

The New York Red Bulls enter their game with Philadelphia Union on Thursday evening at Red Bull Arena in front of an ESPN2 audience with a clear path: Win, and they are in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Red Bulls do hold many of the cards in the case of a draw or loss, following a 2-0 defeat at Sporting Kansas City last week. Union clinched a playoff spot in their second season with a 1-1 home draw vs. Toronto FC on Saturday; now, they are chasing the top seed overall in the Eastern Conference, and will be guaranteed home-field advantage with a win vs. New York.

DOWNLOAD: FULL GAME GUIDE

REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Steven Taylor; JAR (opposite): Sean Hurd; 4th: Chris Penso MLS Career: 87 games; FC/gm: 26.5; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 16; pens: 30

INJURY REPORT: NEW YORK RED BULLS – OUT: DF Chris Albright (R calf strain); MF Sacir Hot (R knee surgery); MF Carl Robinson (R knee contusion); DF Mike Jones (R knee MCL sprain) …

Get Microsoft Silverlight

PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: GK Thorne Holder (concussion); FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain); FW Veljko Paunovic (R hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Joe Tait (R ankle sprain); PROBABLE: GK Zac MacMath (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: NY: Thierry Henry (through Oct. 23)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: NY: Joel Lindpere, Roy Miller, Dane Richards, Luke Rodgers … PHI: Carlos Valdes
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: NY: Mehdi Ballouchy, Thierry Henry, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Teemu Tainio … PHI: Danny Califf, Brian Carroll, Danny Mwanga, Sheanon Williams

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (3 meetings): Red Bulls 1 win, 3 goals … Union 2 win, 4 goals … Ties 0
AT NEW YORK (1 meeting): Red Bulls 1 win, 2 goals … Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 0
• When the teams first met this season, Roger Torres scored the game’s lone goal in the 68th minute to give Union the victory, April 9 at PPL Park.
• The teams split their two league meetings in Union’s expansion campaign, each winning 2-1 at home.
• The Red Bulls also dumped Philadelphia out of the U.S. Open Cup last year with a 2-1 victory.
• Coaches record: Peter Nowak vs. NY: P15 W9 L3 T3 … Hans Backe v PHI: P3 W1 L2 T0

LAST MEETING (MLS)
4/9: PHI 1, NY 0 (Torres 68)
• The game's lone goal came in the 68th minute. New York defender Tim Ream gave the ball directly to Union striker Danny Mwanga in his own half, and Mwanga slid the ball to substitute Roger Torres, who had come on barely a minute before. Torres fired a low shot past Red Bulls ’keeper Bouna Coundoul from inside the area.
• Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon was called upon to make just one save, but he was twice saved by the woodwork on first-half efforts from Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo.
• PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey - Justin Mapp (Danny Mwanga 59), Brian Carroll (Amobi Okugo 6), Stefani Miglioranzi, Keon Daniel - Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz (Roger Torres 67)
• NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Bouna Coundoul - Jan Gunnar Solli, Rafael Marquez, Tim Ream, Roy Miller - Teemu Tainio - Dane Richards (Luke Rodgers 68), Dwayne De Rosario, Joel Lindpere - Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo (Mehdi Ballouchy 86),

NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls saw their undefeated run come to an end after three games, going a man down and dropping a 2-0 decision to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday afternoon at Livestrong Sporting Park. The Red Bulls have 43 points from 33 games, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
• The Red Bulls were down to 10 men in dramatic circumstances after just 28 minutes when Thierry Henry was sent off by referee Kevin Stott for violent conduct toward SKC's Roger Espinoza.
• Sporting finally took the lead in the 57th minute. A corner wasn't cleared and Júlio César bumped a short header to Teal Bunbury in the middle of the box. He drove a low volley past New York goalkeeper Frank Rost.
• Then in the 73rd minute, SKC doubled the margin. Again it came from a corner kick, Matt Besler heading the service back toward the goal area and C.J. Sapong flicking it past Rost on the turn.
• Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe kept the same team for a third consecutive match, maintaining the group that knocked off the LA Galaxy 2-0 at Red Bull Arena.
• NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-2): Frank Rost - Jan Gunnar Solli, Tim Ream, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller - Dane Richards, Teemu Tainio (Mehdi Ballouchy 83), Rafael Marquez (Stephane Auvray 83), Joel Lindpere - Luke Rodgers (Juan Agudelo 70), Thierry Henry (sent off 28).

TEAM NEWS
• With a victory, the Red Bulls will be assured of a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs. If they draw or lose, they will not be eliminated.
• “It was a little frustrating that we concede two goals from set plays even if it is after two or three rebounds. But, as I expected, tough game and of course being one guy down, it is difficult,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “I said to the players after the game the conditions are clear for the last game, it’s a must-win and hopefully 46 points is enough to get a wild card.”
• The Red Bulls will certainly be without Thierry Henry after his expulsion in the first half. Henry will not win the MLS Golden Boot, entering the final week in a tie for third place with 14 goals, one behind joint leaders Dwayne De Rosario (DC) and Chris Wondolowski (SJ).
• “He’s our captain, our leader. He makes things go, so we’re definitely going to miss him,” said center back Stephen Keel. “But it’s going to give a chance to other guys on our team. Whoever coach wants to bring in, he’ll be more than capable when you look at our team from top to bottom. There are other guys that will be able to step in. We’ll miss Henry, absolutely, he’s a leader out there, he makes thing happen, but someone else will step in and contribute 100 percent.”
• With Henry out, it affected Backe’s substitution pattern. “It is definitely a blow and that is why we also subbed Luke Rodgers because he’s on four yellows and if he had picked up his fifth we would be without both strikers for the last game,” said Backe.
• The Red Bulls have conceded 10 goals from corner kicks this season, most in MLS. Sixteen of the 44 goals allowed by the Red Bulls have come directly from set pieces, also the most in the league.
• “If you look at the entire game, both of their goals came off set pieces. Since we were a man down we should have had everyone marked up,” said Keel. “When you’re a man down, they’re going to get chances, but I think we did a decent job to keep everything compact with the back four, organizing and forcing them wide to deal with the crosses. It’s tough, but it’s not something we shouldn’t be able to handle.”
• The Red Bulls were held without a goal for the first time since Aug. 6 (eight games). They still are tied for second in goals scored with 49 (with Sporting KC), four fewer than Seattle. In the case of a tie with D.C. United or Chicago for the final playoff spot, it will come down to goal differential – New York currently holds the advantage in both cases.
• “I think they have the toughest defense in the league now in Philadelphia. We have a must-win game against them, it’s going to be a tough task but we have to do it,” said Dane Richards. “We’re going to approach the game the same way. We just have to put the ball to the strikers, and the strikers are going to try and step up and score goals.”

PHILADELPHIA UNION
Philadelphia Union extended their undefeated streak to eight games and securing a postseason berth, playing to a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon at PPL Park. Union have 48 points from 33 matches on the year, sitting in a tie for the lead atop the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
• Union took the lead just before halftime. A poor clearance fell to midfielder Justin Mapp in the offensive third, and he slipped the ball to Sebastien Le Toux. After a touch to his right outside the area, Le Toux curled a shot past a diving Milos Kocic and inside the TFC goalkeeper's left-hand post.
• But TFC pulled even in the 57th minute. After a juking run on the right flank, Nick Soolsma sent in a low square ball that Ryan Johnson got to the end of first, turning home a first-time shot past Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón.
• Union manager Peter Nowak made one change to the team that came away from CenturyLink Field with a 2-0 victory against Seattle Sounders FC. Faryd Mondragon returned between the posts in place of Zac MacMath.
• PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-1-3-1-1): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan - Brian Carroll - Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu (Jack McInerney 63), Justin Mapp (Roger Torres 76) - Veljko Paunovic (Danny Mwanga 72) - Sebastien Le Toux.

TEAM NEWS
• With the point, Union were assured of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs in their second season.
• “It’s a great day for our franchise. For this group as well, you can feel the difference on the field in some certain moments we weren’t sure if we were going to be in the playoffs or not. I think we were a little scared to win this game today,” Union manager Peter Nowak said.
• Union are unbeaten in eight consecutive games (3-0-5) since Sept. 7, the longest undefeated streak in club history. The longest in MLS this season is 14, by LA and KC.
• Union can still finish anywhere from first to fourth in the Eastern Conference – and either have to play in a wild card game, or move directly to the quarterfinals.
• “I think it’s important from the standpoint that you want to have home games. I think that we would want to play a team from the East rather than from the West,” said defender Danny Califf. “Other than that, playoffs are a clean slate so it doesn’t really matter how good the teams were in the regular season.”
• If Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas City remained tied on points after each plays its final game, then the tiebreaker will go to goal differential first, followed by total goals scored (the teams drew twice during the season).
• Farýd Mondragon returned to the lineup for the first time since Sept. 3, when he came off at halftime against Real Salt Lake after suffering a fractured finger.
• When you’re four or five weeks out and just can train, it will be harder physically to do the goalkeeping you normally do in training. It’s a little bit hard,” Mondragon said. “We have been almost two weeks now training very, very hard. The first week was a little bit hard just because of the finger and this week is the first week I could train normally, full training.”
• In his seven games as Mondragon’s deputy, Zac MacMath did not lose a start and recorded three shutouts.
• “I think he needed this game,” Nowak said. “It’s not easy switching gears. He needs a game to be familiar with the backline, and I think it was a good game for him. Zac did a great job the past seven games but I think it was important to bring Faryd back.”
• Said defender Carlos Valdes: “When Zac had to come in goal he truly stepped up and did a great job for us. Now that Faryd is back he brings more experience for us in the back line and that makes us feel more secure and confident.”
• Sebastien Le Toux scored his 10th goal over the last 11 games in Union’s 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. He is one assist away from hitting double figures in both goals and assists for a second straight year.
• “We knew we could have success after the first game we played against them in which we had a tremendous amount of success scoring,” said Le Toux. “I had some space so I just took my chance at the far post and it went in.”