CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union’s first home game of the 2011 season may have been electric, but with the rival New York Red Bulls invading PPL Park for a Saturday showdown (7 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), they expect the second one to have even more juice.
“It’s gonna be insane,” Union defender Danny Califf said. “I think it’s gonna be like the home opener but with a bit more nastiness to it. And it will be awesome. I love it. Philly’s gonna show New York exactly what they think of them.”
The Union bested Vancouver in their PPL Park opener on March 26 to move to 2-0 on the season. Since then, however, Philly fell to the Galaxy and then dropped a wild US Open qualifying game to D.C. United on Wednesday, picking up a total of three red cards through those two losses.
(Because of his red against the Galaxy, Jack McInerney is out of commission vs. the Red Bulls, but backup 'keeper Zac MacMath and midfielder Amobi Okugo will be back on the sidelines after returning from U-20 duty.)
The Philly players, though, say bouncing back won’t be a problem, especially playing a team like New York that Union fans love to hate.
“We have to [shake it off],” Union midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi said. “It’s a long season. Despite taking a loss in LA, I think we came out of there with some positives and we go into the next game knowing it’s a home game for us.”
Last year, in what was one of the highlights of their inaugural 2010 campaign, the Union closed their home season with a stirring 2-1 win over the Red Bulls, who were in first place in the Eastern Conference at the time.
But both teams are vastly different this year.
The Union revamped their roster in the offseason, acquiring veterans such as goalie Faryd Mondragón, defender Carlos Valdés, midfielder Brian Carroll and striker Carlos Ruiz.
[inline_node:332983]And among other changes, the Red Bulls recently traded for two-time MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario, who joins a loaded care that includes international celebrities Thierry Henry and Rafael Márquez, as well as rising American star Juan Agudelo.
It didn’t take long for De Rosario to make an impact as the Canadian assisted on New York’s only goal in his Red Bulls debut last week.
“They’re a very good team,” Miglioranzi said. “With the addition of De Rosario, that gives us something extra to think about. He pops out in different places and is very capable of scoring from pretty much anywhere.”
Saturday’s game also has early implications in the standings. The Red Bulls (1-0-2) currently sit one point behind the Union (2-1), who are tied for first in the Eastern Conference.
Even Union manager Peter Nowak, while trying to downplay the importance of a game this early in the season, conceded that Saturday’s match will certainly be an exciting one for everyone involved.
“This is a nice game for fans and a great game for the boys in the locker room," Nowak said. "When you play against close rival, these small derbies are always a good feeling to play. You don’t need special motivation for these types of games.”