But after splitting the series with their I-95 rivals in 2019 both teams are full of confidence ahead of an Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One showdown October 20 (3 pm ET | FS1, TSN, TVAS) at Talen Energy Stadium.
Red Bulls veteran goalkeeper Luis Robles said after their 3-0 loss at Montreal Impact on Decision Day presented by AT&T that he “liked the matchup” and head coach Chris Armas noted the success his team has had at Talen Energy Stadium, particularly in October where the Red Bulls have three wins and a loss.
“It’s a good thing that they’re confident; we’re also confident,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “It’s a good thing to be, confident. You don’t want to show any weakness or anything.”
Bedoya and leading goal-scorer Kacper Przybylko were both out of the lineup in the Union’s 2-1 loss to New York City FC at home to close out the team’s best regular season. The loss marked just the first time this season the Union have lost back-to-back games since starting 2019 with consecutive defeats.
The Union found themselves in a hole in the first meeting with the Red Bulls in Chester in early June, now known around the club as “the Ilsinho game” because of the Brazilian veteran’s involvement in all three second-half goals that led to a 3-2 win. The Red Bulls exacted revenge in their building in late September with a 2-0 victory.
The loss to the Red Bulls was one of three the Union suffered in their last four games. While they ended up finishing with the most points in club history and equaled their best finish in the standings in 2011, first place was still within reach up until the penultimate game of the season. The Union were in the top spot in the conference for 15 weeks this season.
And coach Jim Curtin doesn't see the need to respond in kind to the Red Bulls' bullish remarks.
“For the one exception maybe [being] Kacper’s comment about LAFC, I think we’ve done our talking on the field so I’m not going to talk or give any locker room bulletin board material with Red Bull,” he said. “We have a big opportunity for us. We respect Red Bull as a club and as a team, but at the same time we feel that we have a really good team this year too.”
Bedoya and Przybylko are both expected back for the playoff game, which will be just the second home playoff game for the club and the first in eight years. Sergio Santos is also set to return from injury, giving Curtin an additional attacking option.