The Red Bulls’ home opener saw the team take on the rival D.C. United in a heated end-to-end match that, despite countless gasps from the crowd, dings off the post, and shots placed on goal, saw New York add only one point to their spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Now, does the term “rival” apply to the Philadelphia Union? That’s certainly up to one’s own interpretation of the word. But if history has anything to say about it, New York definitely has the edge in all-time meetings between the two sides.
Last season, the Red Bulls posted a perfect 3-0 record over the Union, extending the club’s all-time record against Philadelphia to 5-2-0. Trailing back to the 2011 season, New York has won four straight against their I-95 opponent.
During more recent action, the Union defeated Mexico side UNAM Pumas 1-0 in a Mar. 23 friendly at PPL Park, courtesy of a 68th minute Michael Farfan goal. Package that with Philly’s 1-0 win over the New England Revolution on Mar. 16, along with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Mar. 10, and the Union come into Saturday’s match on the heels of a three-game win streak.
But Philly’s luck has not been so generous while playing in the confines of Red Bull Arena. The Union are 0-3-0 all-time when on the road against the Red Bulls, scoring only one goal over that three-match span.
Home-field advantage for the Red Bulls? Perhaps, but it’s not something head coach Mike Petke is going to solely rely on as he prepares the club for Saturday’s clash.
“Practice [Wednesday] was incredible,” Petke said. “We’re building up for this game at home. Happy we’re at home, comfortable we’re at home.”
New York has played in only one match at Red Bull Arena this season, the Mar. 16 home opener against D.C. United that resulted in a scoreless draw. Chances were there on New York’s 24 shots, similar to how they were on the road in Montreal last week. Unfortunately, the goals have not come.
Petke, while quick to admit a fortuitous bounce here or there would have been a great help, still believes the team remains just as confident as they were at the start of the season.
“Looking for a bit of mother luck to come with some of the attempts we’ve had that have not gone in yet,” Petke said. “But overall, we’re at home. The same way we treated the D.C. game, is the same way we’re treating the Philadelphia game.”
The Union strike duo of Jack McInerney and one-time Red Bull Sebastien Le Toux has so far combined for three goals and two assists this season. While the Red Bulls’ back line has limited opponents to just one goal over the past two matches, Petke believes it starts on the other end of the pitch to keep a fiery Philadelphia offense limited come Saturday’s opening kick.
“The best defense is defending in the other team’s half,” said Petke, “so that’s what we’re looking to do.”
The Red Bulls and Union face off this Saturday from Red Bull Arena, for a 3:30 PM kick off on NBC Sports. Get your tickets now by visiting Red Bulls Ticket Central, or by calling 877.RB.SOCCER.