It's game one of the home-and-home series involving the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo, a match-up between the top two teams in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference. Ironically, it's not crazy to suggest that neither of these teams will be in first place come Saturday night, as Sporting KC could find themselves atop the MLS East standings if they were to win and New York and Houston play to a draw on Friday. Perhaps I'm just a bit pessimistic following the past week of "meh" results, but I don't see a draw in New York's future.
3 thoughts heading into Houston vs. NY Red Bulls: Getting "there"
New York head coach Hans Backe will again be without several starters in Houston, but he is also getting closer to (finally) having a full squad. Teemu Tainio made his return to action in New York's friendly against Tottenham Hotspur this past Tuesday, and new acquisition Tim Cahill debuted in that match. According to a story posted on the official MLS website on Thursday afternoon, both could be selected for New York's starting eleven on Friday night due to Backe being without both Rafa Marquez and Dax McCarty. Marquez is still recovering from injury, while McCarty is banned for a single match due to yellow card accumulation (more on Dax later).
Perhaps the best news for Backe is that Heath Pearce traveled to Houston with the team. Pearce, selected for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game (did not play due to injury), can feature anywhere in the back line, and it's likely that he will be chosen to start if at full fitness. Brandon Barklage is out according to the league's official preview, and Jan Gunnar Solli has not been impressive since returning from an injury of his own last Saturday.
3 thoughts heading into Houston vs. NY Red Bulls: (Missing) Valuable Player
I've repeated it many times since spring, and I will continue to do so until the statement is no longer true: Dax McCarty is, at this point of the season, New York's 2012 MVP. McCarty reminded fans on Tuesday that he is not just your standard CDM, when he sprung the previously mentioned Cahill down the field on a run that, when all was said and done, ultimately put New York up 1-0. McCarty never looked overwhelmed against the EPL side, and he was arguably New York's best overall player on Tuesday.
The Red Bulls have been at their absolute best this season with McCarty and not Marquez hanging back in the midfield. McCarty stabilized a back line that was the team's weak link at the start of the campaign, and he has been the Red Bulls best defensive player in multiple league games. From conversations I've had regarding the subject with Red Bulls fans over the past several weeks, there are still quite a few supporters who discount all that McCarty has meant to this particular team. I think those fans may think differently on that subject at about 10:00 pm ET on Friday evening.
3 thoughts heading into Houston vs. NY Red Bulls: Prediction
I can't think of another way to say it: I just don't have a good feeling about this one. The Red Bulls haven't been terrible when away from Red Bull Arena, but Houston haven't yet lost at home since opening their shiny new arena. Houston have also won four straight, and they've gone 5-0-2 in their last seven. Like it or not, these are two different squads heading into the first weekend of August.
The Red Bulls will be fine moving forward. Sometimes, it's just not meant to be your night. I see the hosts finding the back of the net in both halves, and a goal in the final ten minutes clinches the 3-1 win for Houston. Despite the loss, it's a safe bet that a majority of RBNY fans will still rejoice due to Chris Heck no longer being with the club.
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