Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls

Union play RBNY tonight in the finals of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic.

Match time: Saturday 7:30pm ET

Location: IMG Academy Stadium (Bradenton, FL)

Union form: LLWWW
2/7 at Jacksonville Armada L 1-3
2/10 at Tampa Bay Rowdies L 0-1
2/18 vs. Costa Rica U-23s W 3-0
2/21 vs. London FC W 6-0
2/25 vs. Columbus Crew SC W 1-1 (5-3 PKs)

The Union play their arch-rival New York Red Bulls in the finals of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic tonight, in what may be the last we see of either team indefinitely should the owners and players’ union not be able to agree to a new CBA. With the season (potentially) on the horizon, it’s tough to say how many starters will see significant playing time in this game with both teams kicking off the 2015 MLS campaign next weekend.

Philadelphia tore through the group stage of this tournament, concluding with a win on penalties against Crew SC Wednesday night. RBNY reached the finals after a very impressive 2-0 win over Toronto FC that same night, although TFC’s stars were conspicuously absent from the pitch. Regardless, the Red Bulls looked impressive throughout Wednesday’s victory, and Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored the game’s opening goal, showed that the departure of Thierry Henry shouldn’t stunt his scoring ability as much as some had predicted.

The last time these two played, Philadelphia clawed out of a two goal hole as Pedro Ribero scored and drew a penalty late in the game, which was converted by Sebastian Le Toux. The game ended in a hard-fought 2-2 draw for the Zolos. Ribero is off to sunnier pastures, having been drafted by Orlando City in the Expansion Draft. But the Union’s Fernando Aristeguieta is on the rise since his arrival from Ligue 1 side FC Nantes, scoring three goals in his last two games, including the U’s lone goal Wednesday night.

Union players to watch:
D Ethan White & D Steven Vitoria
This may depend on how much playing time Philadelphias starters see tonight. But with Carlos Valdes on loan to Nacional, Benefica defender Steven Vitoria will step into a Union defense that gave away its fair share of points late in games last season. Philadelphia has only given up 2 goals in the 4 games in which Vitoria has been in the lineup this preseason (one of which came after Vitoria had been subbed out). Without much defensive depth, Jim Curtin will call upon this duo to be the backbone of their defense all season. And the sooner the two can gel, the better.

(Image courtesy of @PhilaUnion)