Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Expect the unexpected, as usual, when the Union and Red Bulls face off on Wednesday

A 1-1 tie back on July 8 was just the latest in what has become a series of wild and entertaining games between the clubs in recent years.

The Union's last trip to Red Bull Arena was one of many in the series where heated words have been exchanged, and sometimes more.
The Union's last trip to Red Bull Arena was one of many in the series where heated words have been exchanged, and sometimes more.Read moreJonathan Tannenwald / Staff

If there’s one thing to be sure of when the Union play the New York Red Bulls, it’s that something unexpected will happen.

A red card here, a penalty kick there, a late goal in either direction, a shouting match, who knows. The series has been that way ever since the Union’s first season in 2010. The matchups have only gotten wilder in the past few years as both teams have committed to fast-paced, high-pressing playing styles.

The last time these teams met, July 8 at Red Bull Arena, the game seemed to have it all: a 57th-minute red card to Union goalkeeper Matt Freese for an absurd bear-hug tackle, New York’s big-money striker Patryk Klimala scoring the ensuing penalty kick, and Sergio Santos stealing an equalizer in the 85th — while New York’s John Tolkin was down on a sideline, albeit unconvincingly.

“The games between us usually don’t go exactly as planned,” Union manager Jim Curtin said on Tuesday. “One thing that is consistent with all of them is they’re very high-intensity games; they’re usually one-play games; they’re very tight. … When you look to the data and the physical output of the games versus Red Bull, they’re always at the highest of our season usually, so I expect nothing different.”

» READ MORE: A look back at the last Union-Red Bulls game

Both teams enter Wednesday’s contest at Red Bull Arena (7:30 p.m., PHL17) in good form. The Union are coming off wins over fellow playoff contenders Atlanta United and Orlando City, while the Red Bulls got a tie and a win against New York City FC in a rare back-to-back set of Hudson River Derbies.

Union captain Alejandro Bedoya will be back from a calf injury, though Curtin said striker Cory Burke will be out “a fairly significant amount of time” with an injured ankle. Red Bulls striker Fábio, who struck twice in a 4-0 romp at Inter Miami on Sept. 18, is questionable.

(Another wild card: the Red Bulls have had a midweek game every week since the end of the September FIFA break, while the Union have had a healthy amount of rest.)

“We know how difficult the task is; we know how good the opponent is — very organized, very well-coached, very good in transition,” Curtin said. “So it’s up to us now to go there, be strong defensively, try to win the transition game and finish a play off.”

Front office change?

Union technical director Chris Albright is in negotiations to become FC Cincinnati’s next general manager, The Athletic reported Tuesday. Albright has been second-in-command in the Union’s front office for many years now, under sporting director Ernst Tanner and previously under Earnie Stewart.

Cincinnati has been without a GM since Gerard Nijkamp was fired on Aug. 6. The team is in the midst of another woeful season, next-to-last in the Eastern Conference despite spending $13 million on Brazilian striker Brenner and opening a new $250 million stadium just north of downtown.

Manager Jaap Stam, a former Manchester United and Netherlands star, was fired on Monday — the team’s third boss in its three years in MLS, plus three interim holders of the job. Nijkamp was the second GM. Cincinnati had the league’s worst record in 2019 and 2020, and is one point above the basement at present.

Union assistant coach Pat Noonan may be a candidate to succeed Stam, especially if Albright is hired. Albright has also interviewed for the San Jose Earthquakes’ vacant general manager job.

None of this has surprised the Union, especially Albright’s longtime friend Curtin, who said last week that it hasn’t been a distraction to the team.

“A team like Cincinnati, a team like San Jose, whoever are searching for GMs out there, would be foolish not to have him be the No. 1 guy,” Curtin said. “Selfishly, I want him to stay here in Philly because we’re very close, and I love how he works, and he’s incredible at what he does. But yeah, at a certain point, you know, when people are great at what they do, other teams start to notice that.”

» READ MORE: Jim Curtin won a big bet on his young players in Union’s win over Atlanta

Turner loaned out

Midfielder Cole Turner, a 20-year-old academy product, will spend the rest of the season on loan at El Paso Locomotive of the second-tier USL Championship.

Turner turned pro in July 2019, backing out of a commitment to the U.S. Naval Academy. But he has played just twice in MLS since then, one late-game cameo last year and one on Sept. 4.

» READ MORE: Philly’s 2026 World Cup bid unveils ace in the hole as Comcast goes all in to win FIFA’s approval