By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The Union are still searching for their first home win in MLS, and they’ll be even more motivated to get it against their longtime rivals, the New York Red Bulls. Currently sitting just outside of a playoff spot, collecting three points in this game could easily propel the Union into a more favorable position in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Bulls are coming off of two straight wins, while the Union are coming off of a win against the Chicago Fire and a last-gasp tie against the New England Revolution. While their results haven’t been bad per se, but their form has been noticeably suffering. They used to be a team that could look spritely and lively throughout the entire 90 minutes of a game, but it’s clear that they’re getting tired.
It’s not all that surprising, considering the fact that Jim Curtin has played more or less the same lineup (with slight adjustments here and there) for both MLS and CONCACAF Champions League games. These players are on the field week in and week out with little rest time in between, and the exhaustion is starting to creep into their performances.
The frustrating part is that it’s relatively easy for Curtin to rectify this issue. The Union arguably have the most prolific and talented academy in the league—so why doesn’t the first utilize them more often? Players like Matthew Real, Paxten Aaronson, Anthony Fontana, Matt Freese, and more often get looks on the bench, but rarely have they seen sufficient playing time this season. There are certainly instances where it would be a bit too risky to start the young guys, but there also instances where it would benefit the team as a whole to get some fresh legs on the field and give the regular starters some much-needed rest.
Predicted Lineup: Blake, Mbaizo, Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Bedoya, Flach, Fontana, Monteiro, Santos, Przybylko
- Although this lineup could use some sprucing up, it’s not likely that Curtin will be inclined to make any major changes against the Red Bulls. He has expressed a desire to give Fontana more starts, especially in the interest of not overworking Jamiro Monteiro, and this would be a perfect opportunity for Fontana to show off his playmaking abilities.
Score Prediction: It seems as though every time the Union should win a game, they don’t. However, they have a lot to play for in this game. A chance to move into the top seven, a home win in the league, and a chance to claim victory over one of their bitterest rivals. Simply put, their slump can’t last forever, and they should be able to come out of it with a 3-1 win.