Bob Bradley: Philadelphia Union play with the influence of a Red Bull team

Carlos Vela - Matthew Real - challenge for ball

Before arriving in August 2018 as sporting director of the Philadelphia Union, Ernst Tanner spent six years overseeing the Red Bull Salzburg academy in Austria.

So, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley has a pretty clear explanation for why Philadelphia went blow-for-blow with his team Sunday night in a wild 3-3 draw. The Union starting XI, after all, featured, five international players signed while Tanner has been at the helm. 

“I talked before, earlier in the week with our players – this is a Red Bull team. Ernst Tanner is a Red Bull person,” Bradley told media after the match. “Red Bull teams only play one way, ok, they play the ball forward, they don’t try to play from the back, so your ability to press them can only be on counter-presses. Then they’re going to try and flick balls and run, the whole bit. I still think we handled those things well and we created a lot of chances. So, the kind of game was exactly what we expected.”

Much of Sunday’s six-goal thriller at Banc of California Stadium was defined by organized chaos, with Philadelphia thrice grabbing a lead only for LAFC to equalize each time. A left-footed free kick from LAFC superstar Carlos Vela and 40-yard howitzer from Union center Jakob Glesnes stole the show, while a Diego Rossi curler also highlighted the match.

But the Red Bull style Bradley reference surfaced in Philadelphia’s combative style, with midfielders Jose Andres Martinez and Brenden Aaronson covering ground en masse. Martinez was even bloodied on a first-half challenge and had to change his jersey several times.

The playing style reminded Bradley of former New York Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch, who’s now coaching Red Bull Salzburg. Specifically, an impassioned locker-room speech at halftime of their UEFA Champions League match last October against Liverpool came to mind.   

“Did you see Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool in Champions League this year when Jesse [Marsch] made the speech that went viral at halftime? This is what happens in these games,” Bradley said. “You can talk all you want about – no, listen, these games are going to go fast. You have to be able to go fast in the game, you have to be able to deal with the second balls. The only thing is I think then in key moments, that ability to just slow down when you’re deciding am I dribbling, which pass to make.”

After Sunday’s 3-3 draw, LAFC and Philadelphia have now scored a combined 13 goals across three MLS games. LAFC holds a 1-0-2 all-time record in the series.