U.S. Open Cup: Round of 16

Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls

June 29th, Talen Energy Stadium

 

The Philadelphia Union will look to rebound from their first home loss of the season and advance to the quarterfinals of this year’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup when they take the pitch against the New York Red Bulls Wednesday evening. Although no points will be awarded and league standings won’t change at all, this game certainly has plenty to watch for and lots to be excited about.

 

Questions

What kind of lineup will we see?

It will be very telling to see what kind of lineup Curtin & co. send out for Wednesday night’s tilt against the Red Bulls in Open Cup play.

In one camp, fans will certainly want to see the Union dress their best in an attempt to continue on in Open Cup play and reach the quarterfinals, especially since we can knock out rival NYRB in the process. In the other camp, the one I feel myself leaning towards, some fans will certainly want Curtin to use this game as more of an experiment; take this opportunity to get creative with the lineup, give some new guys playing time, and keep the team’s primary focus on MLS Cup play. 

At this point last year, the team was all but eliminated from the playoffs and certainly wouldn’t contend for the MLS Cup, so it made sense to at least try and win the Open Cup. Fast forward 1 year and we find ourselves on top of the table with a real shot at the playoffs and a chance to contend in MLS play. The MLS Cup should be their priority this year; the Open Cup would be a bonus.

Curtin’s lineup card for Wednesday night will speak volumes about this team’s current goals.

 

Can our defense rediscover their early-season form?

Assuming both teams come into this game looking for a win and roll out their typical starting lineups, is there any way our defense can break our streak of 3 goals against per game? Can we contain Bradley Wright-Phillips, Mike Grella, and Sacha Kljestan for 90 minutes? Are we lost without Nogueira manning the defensive-mid role?

The Red Bulls will certainly present a challenge for the Union defense and it will be interesting to see if our backline can improve upon recent form. If neither team dresses their usual lineup (the more likely scenario), then we won’t really get a true answer to this question.

 

Who’s in goal? Blake, McCarthy, or Jones?

I think it’s fairly safe to rule out Blake for this game. I don’t expect Curtin to play him in any of our Open Cup matches. Between McCarthy and Jones, I’ll be hoping for McCarthy. In Jones’ only start for the club, he looked shaky and allowed 2 weak goals. McCarthy has endeared himself to the Philly faithful and seems to have a knack for Open Cup play, taking the team to the finals last year. If I’m managing the team, McCarthy is my keeper for the Open Cup and this question is stupid.

 

Predictions

BOLD: The defense holds stout for 90 minutes, but the offense just can’t find the back of the net. This game is decided on PK’s. Red Bulls win despite McCarthy making a great save on their first PK.

OPTIMISTIC: Talen Energy Stadium is packed and roaring. Curtin tries a new formation and experiments with guys in different spots. Tribbett and Marquez man the center back slots with Yaro playing the defensive mid. Ayuk returns on the wing opposite Restrepo. Herbers stays up top. Anderson and Washington fill in for Rosenberry and Fabinho. A bunch of our starters get some well-deserved rest before our flight to Houston. And to top it all off, the Union win 3-1!

REALISTIC: This will be our first taste of the Red Bulls this season and it’s hard to tell how this one will go, as the lineups will dictate a lot. The Red Bulls started slow, but are 5-1-1 in their last 7 games and all 5 wins were shutout victories. The Union are 3-2-2 in their last 7 games, but until this past weekend they’ve been lights out at home. I expect the Union to keep MLS Cup play as priority numero uno and play a mixed bag of a lineup. Jesse Marsch, manager and coach of the Red Bulls, will likely roll out his usual starting lineup because that’s what he does. I’ll be hoping for a Union win, but I think the Red Bulls will get the better of them this time. NYRB 3 – PHI 1.

 

 

Photo: Miguel Angel Nunez (Wikimedia Commons)

Jake Tischler

Follow @TISCHappens on twitter for all things Union. Avid Philadelphia sports fan since birth. Passionate Union fan, Sons of Ben member, and season ticket holder.

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