Red Bulls, Union set for rare high-leverage battle
Field Level Mediaon
Perhaps, after a decade of trying, a true rivalry will finally be born on Saturday night when the Philadelphia Union host the New York Red Bulls in Chester, Pa.
For 10 years, the hope has been that the Union and the Red Bulls would form a true derby, given the geographic closeness of the two clubs. Despite the fact that sports teams in other leagues from New York and Philadelphia simply don't like each other, this rivalry never really clicked, largely due to the fact that the Union have struggled on the field since they entered MLS in 2010.
But Philadelphia (8-4-4, 28 points) enters this weekend atop the Eastern Conference, and the Red Bulls (7-5-3, 24 points) have been the hottest team in the league over the past month.
"We turn around now into a rivalry game -- we don't need to motivate the players when it is Red Bull week," Union coach Jim Curtin said.
"We know them very well, they know us very well. Two top teams in our league right now, in very good form. (Red Bulls coach) Chris Armas has done a great job with their club and especially in recent weeks, they've strung together a lot of good results. Our group is confident right now."
International call-ups due to the Gold Cup will hit both managers. In addition, Curtin and Armas likely will have to heavily rotate squads with mid-week action in the U.S. Open Cup on the schedule for both teams.
In an interesting twist, Armas and Curtin played together on the Fire, adding another layer to what might be a burgeoning rivalry.
"He's as real as they get, he has leadership skills, he keeps developing, and there's so much that goes into his teams, his tactics," Armas said of Curtin.
"There's a lot to Jim Curtin. It doesn't always come across, and I almost think Jimmy -- I'm downplaying it a little bit -- but I was a teammate and there's a lot to Jim. He's a real winner."