Goal.com's MLS game of the week is a zinger. The sophomore Union host the cream of the East in New York, in one of the league's more bitter rivalries.
Philadelphia Union: The defense, a weak sport for the Union last year, has improved dramatically, and is tied for fewest goals allowed, with just one in three games. Part of this is down to the improved play of Danny Califf, and his solid partnership with new signing Carlos Valdes, but the lion’s share of the credit must go to vastly experienced keeper Faryd Mondragon.
New York Red Bulls: Two minutes into his Red Bulls debut, Dwayne De Rosario collected a pass inside his own half and slipped the ball through the Houston Dynamo backline for a streaking Dane Richards who would subsequently finish past the faultless Tally Hall. The assist proved that DeRo was the playmaker the club has been missing since Amado Guevara’s departure in 2006. New York management have sought El Lobo’s replacement for years with Claudio Reyna, Jorge Rojas, and most recently Mehdi Ballouchy failing to be the club’s creative conduit. The lost two points on Saturday will quickly lose their importance if DeRo can become the player that brings the fullest out of Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo.
Philadelphia: The offense has to improve. Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux had impressive scoring records in 2010 but have failed to score so far this season, while marquee attacking signing Carlos Ruiz has just one in his three appearances. Teenage striker Jack McInerney saw red for reacting angrily to a challenge from LA’s Chad Barrett in the Union’s 1-0 away loss.
New York: With the addition of De Rosario, New York improved a squad that is expected to challenge for an MLS Cup. Henry and Rafa Marquez, the two Red Bull Designated Players, are the factors that push the club over the top. However, if they play similarly to how they did against Houston, the two will likely see the Red Bulls eliminated early in the playoffs once again. The French striker never looked dangerous in the attacking third and was unable to put away a potential winner from within the Dynamo’s six-yard box. Marquez, who also had a disappointing performance, allowed Cam Weaver to sneak past his shoulder and equalize minutes after Richards took the lead.
Philadelphia: Manager Peter Nowak’s approach has undergone quite a change since last season. Where the Union were once a high-tempo pressing team, willing to commit players forward, they have now adopted a much more conservative approach. This is typified by Nowak’s preference for two defensive midfielders in front of the backline.
New York: Expect one mere change from the starting XI rolled out by Hans Backe against the Dynamo: De Rosario for Ballouchy. The way the Red Bulls’ front three operates will be intriguing as DeRo may have to temper his forward runs to mesh with his strikers. While at Toronto, the Canadian international would bomb up field, dribble at defenses, and carry his former club’s scoring duties. He will likely have to take a deeper, more facilitating role with New York for the club to attack more smoothly. Think: San Jose/Houston De Rosario rather than the one of the last two years.
Philadelphia: New York at home is a special game for Union fans, and the players, even the new signings, are aware of that. This is, as captain Faryd Mondragon put it, a “derby” game, and one in which there will be extra pressure to perform.
New York: The Union have quickly drawn the ire of the Red Bull supporters – of course, the statement would be also true if you flipped the clubs. There should be a large collection of Empire Supporters Club members and other New York fans in Chester who could propel their side to an away victory.
Philadelphia: New York have been a bit lackluster lately, but have an identical scoring record to Philadelphia’s (2 for, 1 against) despite their worse record. The Union beat the Red Bulls at home last season, and I expect another home win, a close 1-0 to fit with their new modus operandi.
New York: Henry will get his goal in a 1-0 victory. Yes, I said it. Fans have been waiting for their star to endear himself as much as Juan Pablo Angel did during his tenure in New York. PPL Park will be the perfect setting for this to finally occur.
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