On Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia Union will finish up their 2016 Major League Soccer regular season schedule when New York Red Bulls come to town as part of MLS Decision Day. Kickoff from Talen Energy Stadium is scheduled for 4 PM EST (TV: The Comcast Network, MSG and streamed via MLS LIVE).
Fourth matchup in 2016 between Union and Red Bulls
This is the fourth matchup between the two sides this season. In non-league play, Philadelphia eliminated New York, 2-1, from the Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup fifth round in late June at Talen Energy Stadium. The two sides met only a few weeks after their Open Cup tilt in mid-July when the Union scored two goals in two minutes to tie the Red Bulls, 2-2. In their third matchup, Philadelphia traveled up to Red Bull Arena and fell 3-2 to the Red Bulls in a back and forth affair in the first week in October.
All MLS matchups on Sunday will begin at 4 PM EST to add to the drama of MLS Decision Day. However, both teams in the matchup in Chester have relatively little to play for.
Philadelphia, New York look to build momentum before 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs
Philadelphia have all but locked up a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs as long as Jim Curtin’s side does not squander their 12 goal differential lead to seventh place, New England Revolution. If somehow this were to occur, the Revolution would also have to score 12 scores and the Union none since the Union have an 11 goal lead in the next tiebreaker, goals for. With a win and a Montreal Impact loss, Philadelphia would finish the season in fifth place as opposed to sixth.
With a likely midweek matchup ahead for Philadelphia, there has been speculation that Curtin will rest some of his players in an attempt to save them for the playoff knockout match that could be on Wednesday or Thursday. Players like CJ Sapong, Tranquillo Barnetta, Chris Pontius and Joshua Yaro were all mentioned by Curtin in his midweek press conference about their recovery from recently sustained injuries.
Considering the short turnaround, fans should expect players like Fabian Herbers, Roland Alberg, Ilsinho and maybe even Maurice Edu to start or make an extended appearance in Sunday’s match. All four of these players could play a large role in the midweek playoff game as a super sub or even as a starter.
Bradley Wright-Phillips looks to lock up Golden Boot
On the other side of the pitch, New York has already locked up a playoff bye and, barring an epic collapse, the first overall seed in the Eastern Conference. One player to keep an eye on is Bradley Wright-Phillips. Heading into Sunday, Wright-Phillips has a one goal lead over NYCFC’s David Villa for the Golden Boot and will surely be looking to add to his total Sunday to make his lead secure.
It is no secret Philadelphia have struggled the second half of the season. This will be their last opportunity to gain any semblance of momentum heading into a midweek playoff matchup. While a win would definitely improve confidence on the team, Philadelphia needs to remarkably improve their play from last Sunday, if there is any hope of making a playoff run.