The New York Red Bulls have regularly bounced back from losses in strong fashion, particularly after being shut out. With the likely returns of two top offensive weapons Saturday night, they hope that trend continues as they host a Philadelphia Union club which has never won at Red Bull Arena.
A winner would not only claim the season series but also be sitting atop the Eastern Conference, at least for one day if not longer.
New York (11-8-5) sits one point behind Sporting Kansas City for first place, while Philadelphia (10-7-7) is one point back of New York. Kansas City travels to San Jose on Sunday night.
“It doesn’t matter where Philadelphia is in table, it’s three points for us and that’s really our focus,” New York coach Mike Petke told the team’s official website. “We’re not looking at them where their standings are, we’re not looking at anything more than us getting out there, getting back to what we’ve done well this year and putting in a performance that’s worthy of three points.”
The Red Bulls were without Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill in a 2-0 loss at Columbus last Saturday, snapping a four-match undefeated streak. Petke said Henry is definitely expected to play this weekend after being sidelined by Achilles inflammation, while Cahill will likely play in some capacity after being out with a torn PCL since July 27.
The duo has combined for 13 of the club’s 36 goals as well as eight assists.
They’ll try to help New York improve upon its 5-1-1 record following defeats this year, including 4-0-0 after being shut out. The Red Bulls followed a 3-0 loss at Philadelphia on June 23 - their most lopsided since a 4-1 defeat at D.C. on April 22, 2012 - with a 2-0 victory over Houston.
“These guys have bounced back after bad performances all year,” Petke said. “Can’t do anything about the past, it’s all about the next game.”
Philadelphia comes off a 2-0 home win over D.C. last Saturday. The Union also won their most recent road game, 1-0 over Vancouver on July 27 to end an 0-2-2 skid away from home, but they’ve lost all five of their trips to New York, including a 2-1 final March 30.
“It’s an arena, it’s a team that when we’ve gone up there hasn’t been the most hospitable to us,” coach John Hackworth said. “But we feel like we’re in a good way right now and we can only control what we can, so our plan is to go up there and put in a performance that will hopefully get us a result.”
Conor Casey scored twice in Philadelphia’s win over New York and has eight goals in eight career games against them. He registered his eighth and ninth goals of this season last Saturday, with the first coming off Sebastien Le Toux’s league-leading 11th assist.
The Red Bulls have won three in a row at home while outscoring opponents 10-3. They’ve claimed a 22-11 goals advantage at home on the year.