A three-game winning streak and the potential return of Tim Cahill have the New York Red Bulls looking like a good bet to keep things rolling when they take on FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.
The Red Bulls are in first place in the Eastern Conference, and can solidify their hold on that spot with a win against an FC Dallas side in dire need of points after falling even further behind the playoff pack in the Western Conference.
FCD is currently four points behind fifth-place Los Angeles Galaxy for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and will need a win to maintain any hopes or a post-season push. A nine-match winless skid in the summer dropped FC Dallas from first place to sixth, but a recent 2-1-1 stretch has revived the Hoops' chances of grabbing a playoff spot.
That won't come easy against a Red Bulls team that is 5-0-1 in their past six matches at Red Bull Arena. Especially not if Tim Cahill returns from the ankle injury that has kept him sidelined for the past two matches. Cahill's presence gives the Red Bulls an aerial threat that could cause problems for FC Dallas' centerbacks.
The bigger problem for FCD's defense will be containing Thierry Henry, who has scored in his past two matches. Henry has shown strong form since being benched in the Aug. 31st victory vs. D.C. United.
The meeting is the first between the teams in 18 months, and will mark Kenny Cooper's first appearance against the Red Bulls since being traded to FC Dallas in the off-season. Cooper scored 19 goals for New York last season, but was still shipped away in a move made for salary cap reasons. The stats suggest that decision has paid off because Cooper has managed just three goals this season, and hasn't scored since May 18th. Conversely, Fabian Espindola has scored eight goals this season since being brought in to help replace Cooper.
Cooper's match-up won't be the only reunion taking place. Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty will be taking on his firmer team, and trying to contain former midfield partner David Ferreira. The pair were teammates on FC Dallas' 2010 MLS Cup finalist squad.