The New York Red Bulls have had a rough start to the season, suffering a pair of disappointing road defeats.
While the Red Bulls are hoping getting back home makes all the difference, they could be in for a rude awakening against the undefeated Colorado Rapids.
New York looks to avoid opening 0-3-0 for the first time in 14 seasons Sunday against the visiting Rapids, who are trying to start 3-0-0 for the second consecutive year.
After falling 2-1 at FC Dallas in its season opener, New York (0-2-0) was handed a 2-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake on March 17.
"Essentially, you look at the four goals we've conceded, it's just silly mistakes," center back Stephen Keel told the league's official website. "Just mental lapses and a couple of decision making here and there. You clean those up, and we're OK. It's about being focused and switched on for 90 minutes."
The Red Bulls haven't dropped their first three matches since 1998 as the MetroStars, and are understandably looking forward to their home opener. New York has outscored opponents 48-30 in compiling an 18-8-8 record at Red Bull Arena, which opened in 2010.
"Now coming home, to the home opener, having two games (at home), that will help a lot," coach Hans Backe said. "We will just have to show that we are almost unbeatable at Red Bull Arena."
The Red Bulls are just 1-5-2 over their last eight meetings with Colorado (2-0-0) and were outscored 6-3 in going 0-1-1 in the series last season. The teams posted a 2-all draw at Red Bull Arena on May 25.
The Rapids enter this matchup with plenty of momentum after a 2-1 road win over Philadelphia last Sunday. Midfielder Jaime Castrillon put Colorado up 1-0 in the 56th minute with his first MLS goal before rookie Tony Cascio scored six minutes later.
"In MLS, that's what it comes down to on these away trips," goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. "Going away to other teams' home venues, it's hard to get points, let alone three points in MLS on a home trip."
In addition to getting back to its own field, New York should receive a boost with Rafa Marquez expected to make his season debut following a three-game suspension dating to the 2011 playoffs. Captain Thierry Henry knows having Marquez in the lineup could be just what the team needs to get on track.
"I'm not having a go at anybody, but it is difficult," Henry said of New York's disappointing play. "We don't come out well from the back, so hopefully Rafa can be the player that gives the rhythm necessary to win."
Defender Wilman Conde could also be available for the first time since suffering a strained thigh during the preseason.
While he was not available due to U.S. Olympic team commitments, the Red Bulls got some bad news Saturday when they learned forward Juan Agudelo tore the meniscus in his left knee in Thursday night's 6-0 win over Cuba. It is uncertain how long the 19-year-old will be sidelined.