The Union’s home opener against the Red Bulls this year will carry a little extra significance as it is the first time they’ve been able to take the pitch at Subaru Park in 310 days.
The MLS season, like all sports, has been altered greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the MLS was quick to return with its MLS is Back tournament in the bubble in Orlando, FL. The Union went 4-1-1 and pushed the eventual champion Portland Timbers until the final moments of their semi-final matchup. It was also a showcase for keeper Andre Blake, who made stunning saves in nearly every game, proving he’s one of the best in the league.
Their opponents tonight, the New York Red Bulls did not make it past the round-robin portion of the tournament but have opened their season restart with a win, while the Union only was able to secure a draw against the New England Revolution. They are returning to Subaru Park for the first time since the Union’s epic extra-time victory in last year’s playoffs, where the Union won 4-3 in what is widely considered the game of the year.
This year’s Union team might be even better than last seasons. So far they’ve showed they can get scoring from a variety of players as the Union have had seven different players score goals: Alejandro Bedoya, Brenden Aaronson, Sergio Santos, Ilsinho, Jacob Glesnes, Kai Wagner and Kacper Przybylko. Ilsinho especially has feasted on the Red Bulls in his career so he’ll be a player to watch in the match.
On the defensive end the heavy lifting will fall on the centerback pairing of Mark McKenzie and Jack Elliot, who along with Blake are the anchors of the defense. We know both teams can score, and if the Union are up to the task defensivley odds are they will be able to break through at some point on the score sheet.
If there was a concern from the tournament that the Union are still needing to address it is how they defend set-pieces. They gave up too many goals to corner kicks in the tournament and it proved costly. Coach Jim Curtain will be on that task most likely, and the 0-0 result against the Revolution showed they can buckle up on defense.
The game is Tuesday, August 25th at 7:30 and can be seen online or on PHL17. If you want to follow along, our writer Rob Whitney aka Bobby Dubs will be on-site covering the action and live-tweeting from the Last Out Media Twitter account.