Chester, PA – PPL Park has not been kind to Red Bull New York.
The Red Bulls have yet to claim a point at the Philadelphia Union's home stadium, but Sunday could mark the end of that streak as they carry a strong run of results in Chester, Pennsylvania.
After failing to keep a clean sheet through its first seven games, New York appears to have found a sound defensive formula - the team has claimed three consecutive wins, all by a 1-0 scoreline. The Red Bulls are riding a 293- minute shutout streak into Sunday tilt at Philadelphia, the sixth-longest streak in MLS this season.
What's been most impressive about the defensive turnaround has been the lack of experience at the back. Head coach Hans Backe looks set to hand the reins over to those players who have earned their stripes.
"Brandon Barklage now has played three games and you can say after three games that he has a future as a right fullback," Backe said. "He defends phenomenal, he's quick, he's very composed in the attacking game.
"Of course I'm surprised that a player like Tyler Ruthven has never played in an MLS game before, playing for Atlanta. Connor Lade coming from the Academy, doing so well. I was quite worried before when we got all these injuries."
Rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara has been a revelation this season as well. The Fordham University product allowed 14 goals through his first seven professional games but has not conceded since.
"For a young back line and a young goalkeeper, three 1-0 wins in a row, you can't ask much more than that," said Dax McCarty, who himself has been in top- form in recent matches.
On paper, it would appear that the Red Bulls are in a strong position to claim another shutout this weekend as they go up against a Union team that has managed just five goals through eight games this season and has been shut out a total of four times.
Philadelphia is coming off of a 1-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field last Saturday, a match in which the Union only recorded one shot on target.
"With a rookie goalkeeper in there making his first start, we talked about putting balls in the box and testing him and putting shots on frame and getting numbers forward," said Union assistant coach John Hackworth. "And we continued to struggle a little bit with that, so we're disappointed."
The Union will face another rookie goalkeeper Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust their strategy.