It's hard to not feel more than a little optimistic regarding the New York Red Bulls as they prepare to host Chivas USA on Wednesday evening; and no, such feelings aren't just because of the RBNYOptimist. Go and check out the current Major League Soccer standings as of Tuesday evening. Pay special attention to the "Last 5" column for the Red Bulls. For those of you too lazy to click this link to check the standings, I'll go ahead and inform you that New York's "Last 5" column reads "W-W-W-W-W." RBNY are just 90+ minutes from closing out league play in May with a win for the record books, a victory that would keep them atop the eastern conference standings heading into the international break.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Chivas USA: One forgotten point
When we learned on Sunday that former Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo would not take part in this match due to his training with the US Men's National Team, the first thought many Red Bulls supporters had was "phew, another former New York player can't burn us this time around." Lost in the shuffle was the fact that Agudelo had little, if any, time to prep Chivas USA for their trip to Red Bull Arena. The same can't be said for former Chivas defender Heath Pearce, who joined the Red Bulls immediately following last Thursday's trade. Pearce won't just be looking to provide a "see what you lost?" revelation for his former club on Wednesday evening. You can be sure he's been working with players such as Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry regarding his former team's defending. Who better to teach how to break down a back line than the man who was that line's most consistent player just one week ago?
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Chivas USA: Will they or won't they?
Thierry Henry, Wilman Conde and Rafa Marquez are all in the "probable" column as of early Tuesday evening. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that New York head coach Hans Backe will pick all or even one of them for Wednesday's lineup. Henry was reportedly healthy before last Saturday's match at Montreal Impact, but he was left back in the States, partially due to the awful turf that's found at Olympic Stadium. Analysts and fans alike are curious to see how Backe will mess with a lineup that has won five straight, and I have to admit that I do wonder how this fan base will react if Backe makes significant and unwanted changes that ultimately result in New York losing a match. One thing we've learned throughout this campaign is that Backe's projected lineup the night before a match and his actual lineup at kickoff time are often not the same thing.
3 thoughts heading into NY Red Bulls vs. Chivas USA: Be careful
One thing jumped out at me while I was skimming the MLSSoccer.com match preview, and that's Dax McCarty being just one yellow card away from suspension. McCarty has been New York's MVP during their current run while Henry has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury, and McCarty being forced to sit out a match could force Backe to again play defender-turned-midfielder Rafa Marquez as a CDM. We saw how that went during the opening hour of the May 13 match at Philadelphia, and it wasn't pretty to watch for RBNY supporters.
Prediction: Chivas USA may play better when away from home, but these aren't your 2011 Red Bulls. New York haven't yet lost at Red Bull Arena this season, and they've done well to win while playing scrappy, chippy and even sloppy "MLS style" soccer over the past month. Henry and Conde have both shown that they're capable of reentering the New York lineup without missing a beat. It's now on Marquez, who could, with a handful of additional poor performances, find himself with a new team by the end of July. I see the Chivas attack, one that has found the back of the net just seven times thus far this season, struggling to get into a rhythm on Wednesday. It may not end up being a walk in the park, but the Red Bulls should manage a comfortable 2-0 win.