United-Red Bulls Preview


The New York Red Bulls certainly weren't happy that their final home game last season turned out to be against D.C. United.

They'll be especially eager for their 2013 home opener against the same opponent.

The Red Bulls try again for their first win Saturday versus D.C., but that could be a tough task with United getting Dwayne De Rosario back from suspension.

New York seemed to be in strong position to advance in the playoffs last season after tying D.C. 1-1 on the road in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals Nov. 3.

The second leg, however, didn't go as MLS or the Red Bulls planned. The game was pushed back one day due to a snowstorm, and after each team received a red card, United's Nick DeLeon scored the winning goal in the 88th minute.

New York had gone 11-2-4 at home in the regular season, including a 3-2 win over D.C.

"For me, I'm a very spiteful person with certain things, and I'm very spiteful about that game for sure," Red Bulls coach Mike Petke, an assistant at the time, told his team's official website. "Is it something I'm addressing and bringing up to the team? Absolutely not. That's the past. If these guys can't find motivation on their own, then they're in the wrong business."

De Rosario missed the playoff matchups with a knee injury, but he'll be back Saturday after being suspended for the first two games of 2013 due to violent conduct against Philadelphia's Danny Cruz in a preseason game.

The 2011 MLS MVP had seven goals and 12 assists in 27 games last season before getting hurt. He has three goals and three assists in his past five meetings with New York.

United (1-1-0) scored once in the two games without him, but that tally from Lionard Pajoy was enough for a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake last Saturday.

New York (0-1-1) has blown a second-half lead in each of its first two games. The Red Bulls were ahead in the 83rd minute Sunday at San Jose before losing 2-1.

"You look back and you look at the flow of the games and you're thinking, 'Why didn't we leave these two road trips with at least four points, maybe even six if we're a little bit better in Portland,'" midfielder Dax McCarty said. "It's pretty mind-blowing, but we can't panic."

New York is struggling to find its identity.

"The players that we have, we should be a possession team," Petke said. "At the end of the day we have to really rethink if we're going to be a possession team, because if we can't be, or we refuse to be, then I'm going to bring on guys who can win head balls and just hammer the ball 60, 70 yards up every game, maybe get a flick on, and score."

Part of the problem could be due to a left calf strain to midfielder Juninho, who is uncertain to return after missing the San Jose game.

Thierry Henry is hoping a return home will help him get his first goal of 2013. The forward scored 10 of his 15 last year at home, but he doesn't have any in three matchups with D.C. there.

"It's usually a battle," United forward Chris Pontius told his team's official website about the rivalry. "Especially (the Red Bulls') home opener - we're going to get their best game."