Jun 23, 2013, 9:26 AM EDT
After almost three weeks off from MLS action the New York Red Bulls are back, with a trip to rivals Philadelphia in the I-95 derby.
Mike Petke’s side have been stewing over a 2-1 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps back on June 1, as they aim to keep the pressure up on Eastern conference leaders, the Montreal Impact.
While the Union haven’t been in MLS action for a while either, with their 3-0 win against the Columbus Crew back on June 5 their last league outing.
So will both teams be rusty and come out slowly in this one? I doubt it.
Since Philadelphia joined MLS, this rivalry has intensified, with the close proximity of both cities leading to sizable away followings at each stadium.
The atmosphere created around these games is always exciting and the ‘Sons of Ben’ supporters group will be looking to give New York a hostile reception at PPL Park.
Plus this year there’s an extra edge, as the Union are challenging New York for a playoff place after their struggles for much of last season.
But how will this game pan out? Well, back on March 30 New York triumphed 2-1 at Red Bull Arena thanks to a late goal from Thierry Henry to give Petke his first win as an MLS coach. Since then Petke is finding his feet as New York went seven games unbeaten before that lass to Vancouver last time out. While the Union have lost just two of their last seven and have a game in hand of New York and are just three points behind them.
A win on Sunday would be huge for John Hackworth’s side, as they aim to make a statement that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Sporting KC, Montreal, Houston and New York as contenders for the Eastern conference crown.
The Union will be pulling out all the stops to get the win, and with forward Jack McInerney leading the MLS goalscoring charts, New York have to lock him down.
As far as injuries and suspensions go, New York will be missing Jamison Olave and Juninho through suspension while Philadelphia have a clean bill of health. Tim Cahill is returning from his triumphant international duty, as Australia qualified for Brazil 2014.
Disappointing defeats in the U.S. Open Cup has left both sides desperate to get back out on the field, so expect a rough and tumble affair, especially in the early knockings.
Here’s a stat for you, both coaches have 100 percent records in this fixture… Hackworth has lost on all three occasions against the Red Bulls, while Petke is 1-for-1 against Philly.
Who can steer their side to victory down by the banks of the Delaware River this evening? Kick off is 5pm ET, the game is live on ESPN.
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