Just a short stretch of I-95 — less than a 2-hour drive without traffic — separates the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls. And although the teams aren’t encessarily each other’s primary MLS rival, the games still carry something extra.
That will be even more true on Sunday in the clubs’ first-ever postseason meeting, a first-round clash in the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs at Talen Energy Stadium (3 pm ET | FS1, TSN 4, TVAS 2). Let’s look ahead to this often-heated clash.
Roots of the rivalry
When teams from the cities of Philadelphia and New York meet, it will always mean something, whether it’s the Knicks vs. the 76ers, Giants vs. Eagles, Rangers vs. Flyers, Mets vs. Phillies or Red Bulls vs. Union.
When Philly joined the league in 2010, the teams immediately became linked due to the distance and general history in the region. The first time the teams faced each other in MLS in Philly’s inaugural season, the Red Bulls welcomed their new adversaries with a 2-1 win. Salou Ibrahim and Juan Pablo Angel scored for New York, while Sebastian Le Toux got on the scoresheet for Philly.
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Most of the memorable moments between these sides have come in the U.S. Open Cup, where the Union have gotten the better of the Red Bulls.
In 2016, at the end of a Union win, then-Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch grew infuriated with refereeing decisions and was ejected. He even threw a couple of soccer balls on his way out.
Marsch is ejected but on the way out he grabs a few balls and throws them in anger. pic.twitter.com/x9ilOEAl7F
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) June 30, 2016
The scene was much to the delight of Union boss Jim Curtin, a former teammate in their playing days.
“I’ve seen that face before in training sessions,” Curtin said. “When you’re on the other side, it still does make me smile.”
Another memorable moment came this season, when Ilsinho inspired an entertaining comeback over New York in June. The skillful Brazilian came on with his team trailing 2-0, then had a 12-minute span where he had two goals and an assist to lead Philly to a 3-2 win.
MLS regular season series
The Red Bulls have generally had the better of Philly in the regular season, winning 14 of the 26 encounters, including five ties. In fact, the Union have more losses against the Red Bulls than any other team in MLS.
But the teams split the regular-season set in 2019, with Philadelphia winning the above-mentioned “Ilsinho Game” and the Red Bulls answering with a 2-0 victory in September through Tom Barlow and Daniel Royer.
Philly have never taken a regular-season series outright against the Red Bulls.