With a win or a tie on the road this weekend, the Philadelphia Union’s lethal attacking team might pass Los Angeles FC for the lead in the Supporters’ Shield when they play the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at Red Bull Arena.
Midweek, New York blanked CF Montreal to extend its unbeaten streak to four games, while Philadelphia once again defeated Atlanta United with ease, this time.
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|New York Red Bulls
Tips and Prediction
The Red Bulls, who are presently third in the Eastern Conference and two points behind Montreal for second place, have put themselves in a strong position to secure a home playoff game with just five games left in the regular season.
It’s possible that playing at home isn’t the ideal option for them given how well-planned and structured they have been when traveling in 2022.
New York earned their 30th point away from home on Wednesday, the most among MLS teams. They have allowed one goal or fewer in 11 of those games while keeping five clean sheets.
In contrast to prior seasons, Red Bull Arena has become anything but a fortress for New York, who have lost 19 of their 34 goals this season and have only won one of their previous five home games played there.
With a 12-point advantage in the playoff race and three more victories to lock up their berth in the postseason, Gerhard Struber and his team are inching closer to a record 14th consecutive trip in the MLS Cup playoffs.
If they can win again this weekend, they would have won more games in a regular season than they have since winning 14 games in 2019.
Collectively, it appears that this team has begun to embrace the high press approach that has helped Red Bull teams around the world become so successful. This team rarely appears to be out of position at the back and is quick and effective on the counter.
The Union’s biggest concern heading into the 2022 campaign was where the team would get its goals from after letting top scorer Kacper Przybylko sign with the Chicago Fire and failing to replace him with a seasoned number nine.
That question, however, has been answered over the past few weeks, and the Union’s new concern is how many goals they will score per game given that Philly has been annihilating opponents lately, winning their last three games by a total score of 16-1.
Jim Curtin has been able to rely on a group of players that, taken as a whole, may be even more impressive than the group that won the Supporters’ Shield in 2020.
Three Union players have scored ten or more goals so far this season, while their defense is still among the league’s stingiest, allowing the fewest goals in MLS (21).
When they defeated the Five Stripes on Wednesday, they broke the record for the most six-goal victories in an MLS season (four) set by the Colorado Rapids last Saturday. They were only the second team in league history to score at least four goals in three straight regular-season games.
In addition to setting a new franchise record most points in a regular season (57), Philadelphia’s victory on Wednesday allowed them to clinch a postseason spot for a fifth straight season, surpassing their previous high of 55 from 2019.
The Union have lost two of their last three games on the road, though their previous away game ended in a convincing 6-0 victory over DC United. If there is anything bad to say about the Union right now, it might be their road performance.
Even though this team has been strong recently, they have struggled to get past the New York defense at Red Bull Arena, scoring one goal or fewer in five of their previous six trips to New Jersey while going scoreless in three of those games.
In spite of everything the Union have accomplished recently, it appears to have been forgotten that their defense remains one of the best in MLS.
We think it will set Philadelphia apart from a Red Bulls team that has a formidable backline but may not have the same depth of scoring as Philadelphia.