[MLS: Week 7] An extensive schedule of 36 Wednesday games begins this week with Philadelphia visiting Red Bull Arena in the first of three meetings this season between the Eastern Conference rivals.
Neither team is off to a good start, but of the two, New York (0-2-4) is struggling mightily and a 1-0 loss to D.C. United Saturday didn’t do much
to improve the mood though head coach Mike Petke lauded the team’s play.
“This is our sixth game tonight, so it’s starting to creep in a little bit, you know,” he said after the match. “We’re still far from pushing the panic button, anything like that. Now it’s getting to the point – especially after a game like this – but overall we’re a good team. We have good players. And we showed that tonight.”
The Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield last season despite a 1-3-2 start, so it has a recent track record of recovery. New York could also have attacker Tim Cahill available, perhaps off the bench. He’s missed two games with a hamstring injury but trained on Monday and along with defender Armando is expected to make the 18-man game-day roster.
Philadelphia (1-1-4) snared a 2-2 tie with Real Salt Lake Saturday with a last-minute Maurice Edu goal to record its third straight deadlock. It also tied its last road game, 2-2, in Chicago. Head coach John Hackworth says a shift in the team’s approach -- it is more of a possession team than the defense-oriented squad in 2013 -- needs time to take hold. Cristian Maidana and Victor Nogueira, among others, have upgraded the team’s overall level of skill and talent, but errors in the middle and defensive thirds have been costly.
“I’m always looking at it that the glass is half full,” he said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “I think with the quality of our team this year, we’re built for being successful over the long haul. The mistakes we’ve made early in the season are correctable. They’re not as much technical or tactical mistakes as they are in concentration and just poor execution. I look at that and say, ‘We can solve those problems, we can really improve.’”
The teams split their season series last year at 1-1-1. New York won the first meeting of the year at Red Bull Arena, 2-1, and the third and final game between the teams ended 0-0 at the same venue. That is the only point earned by Philly at Red Bull Arena since it entered MLS in 2010. (Philly won the only match last year at PPL Park, 3-0.)
Conor Casey scored three goals for Philly in the three 2013 games but might not get the start: Andrew Wenger tallied Philly’s first goal in the tie with RSL and is ably filling the role Hackworth had envisioned for him when he swung a trade last week that sent Jack McInerney to Montreal.
“What I think Andrew as a whole was he showed that he is capable of playing that target No. 9, putting in a large volume of work on the field, and still being able to play,” said Hackworth of the deal that brought home the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 SuperDraft. “He does have a little bit more of a physical presence than Jack and clearly that’s important to us.”
This is a crucial game for the winless Red Bulls; that pressure plus the 0-0 tie secured by Philly at Red Bull Arena last time gives Hackworth some encouragement.
“We’ve had a couple chances up there before where we felt like we played well and we gave up goals late and lost all the points,” said Hackworth. “Hopefully, the group of guys who will be returning to Red Bull Arena will feel like, ‘Hey, it’s not impossible for us to get a result up there.’ Again, we’re trying to concentrate on what we need to improve on and we know we’re going to face a quality Red Bull team. It’s going to be difficult but we’re looking forward to it.”