The New York Red Bulls take on the Houston Dynamo at 7:30 PM tonight at the Cathedral of Football, Red Bull Arena, and we should see the debut of Dwayne De Rosario in behind Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo. The extra offensive firepower should be welcome for a Red Bulls team that has had trouble creating chances and scoring, both throughout last season and so far in 2011.
To get the Houston perspective on this match, my colleague Avery Raimondo shot three questions over to Zach Woosley, the manager of SB Nation's Dynamo Theory.
1)Kofi Sarkodie looked solid but showed some signs of vulnerability in his professional debut. Do you think Dominic Kinnear will retain the same defense from last Friday or will Hunter Freeman return to right back?
Sarkodie played well but I think his start had more to do with Andre Hainault having to play inside with Jermaine Taylor's absence for international duty. I fully expected Hainault to return to the left back spot this week but Taylor was injured playing for Jamaica and the extent of his injury has not been released. If Taylor is unavailable, there's a good chance we'll see the same lineup with Freeman covering the left and Sarkodie on the right. Freeman looked shaky at first against Seattle but settled down well after nearly earning a red card in the third minute.
2) The duo of Will Bruin and Jason Garey didn't seem particularly threatening. How many minutes do you expect Brian Ching to get this weekend and what do you think is Houston's most dangerous striking combination?
Ching probably could have started in the Seattle match but the combination of fake turf and rain led Kinnear to play it safe and keep the forward on the bench until late. Ching has been practicing all week so I fully expect him to start against the Red Bulls. It's really hard to say what the Dynamo's most dangerous striker combo is at this point. Obviously the Garey/Bruin duo hasn't been tearing it up but I don't think that is something anyone is concerned about at the moment. Ching is still the guy and his experience and ability should open things up for the Dynamo offense and give us a better idea of how effective Jason Garey can be.
3) The Dynamo have looked very able in their first two matches, but enter this weekend with a sole point. What obstacles have Houston faced in the early going?
The Dynamo did a major overhaul of their roster in the offseason and despite a lot of pre-season matches, the group is still learning to play together. There have been encouraging signs but it will probably still be another month or so before we really start to see what this team is capable of. Ching being injured and Cameron still adjusting to the central attacking role have slowed the offense and our three new defenders and new starting goalkeeper are still learning to play together. Plus we haven't gotten a lot of production from the right side of the midfield. Basically a lot of little things. The bright side of all this is the fact the issues are not irreparable and have more to do with time and learning than functional problems. It also helps that the playoff system in MLS rewards teams that are peaking at the end of the season, so it's all about getting what points you can and being in the mix come October.
For the Red Bulls, Rafael Márquez, Tim Ream, Dane Richards, Bouna Coundoul, and Juan Agudelo are back from international duty (Sacir Hot is still with the US U-20s), while Greg Sutton will be out again after suffering a concussion in training last week. Alex Horwath impressed on his debut, but Coundoul will probably be back in goal for New York. Thierry Henry has recovered from a hamstring injury and should start as well.
The introduction of De Rosario will probably mean a change in New York's shape, from a 4-1-3-2 to 4-3-1-2. My guess is that Backe will set them up like this:
But I've been quite wrong about Backe's selection before, so it's anybody's guess. That would be a pretty attacking lineup unless Lindpere tucks in when Richards gets forward on the right and vice-versa -- it would also require the fullbacks to be more defensive than they like.
However the Red Bulls line up tonight, it should be a good contest and an excellent chance to return to winning ways after the creditable draw away to Columbus last week. We'll have a match thread going here at Once A Metro for those of you who can't make it to the game (or, like me, are stuck in northern climes where it snowed yesterday). The Red Bulls finally signed a TV deal for this season, so you can watch the match on MSG2.