The New York Red Bulls' quest for wins against non-helpless teams continues on Wednesday night as they travel to Dick's Sporting Goods Park to take on the MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids. We swapped three questions with Rapids blog Burgundy Wave ahead of the match, and if Colorado's left back situation is as dire as it sounds, look for Dane Richards and Jan Gunnar Solli to put in great performances on Wednesday. On to the questions!
1) Once a Metro: Conor Casey picked up a knock against Seattle on Saturday and had to leave the match. Any word on his status for Wednesday night? How important is it for the Rapids to have Casey on the field?
Burgundy Wave: The injury was an Achilles injury that looked pretty bad last I heard so even without looking I could probably guess that he's going to be out for a good long chunk of time, including the Red Bulls game. I believe he's already been placed as 'out' on the injury report so you can probably expect an Omar Cummings - Caleb Folan pairing up top on Wednesday.
2) Once a Metro: Colorado has seven league matches in the month of July including a couple of mid-week fixtures (including Wednesday night against New York). Are you seeing the same lineup for each game or some shuffling to keep players fresh? How is the overall depth of the Rapids' roster?
(Burgundy Wave's answer and their three questions on the New York Red Bulls after the jump)
Burgundy Wave: The injury problems have finally started to clear up for the Rapids at the best possible time, considering the amount of games we're playing. Even with that, the Rapids are a team that have plenty of depth in some areas - strikers and wingers - and absolutely nothing in some other areas - left back and DM. Fortunately a lot of the players who the Rapids don't have much depth behind - the defensive midfielders like Pablo Mastroeni or versatile, good defenders like Drew Moor - tend to play every game almost the full 90 with no drop in play. Most of the shuffling around so far in July to keep things fresh has been on the wings with Brian Mullan, Jamie Smith, Wells Thompson and Sanna Nyassi all getting swapped starts for each other. Mullan and Smith are both aging and picked up slight knocks at the start of the month as well, which is making the changes more necessity than just resting players on a whim.
3) Once a Metro: Colorado is currently in fifth place in a very strong Western Conference but thanks to a generous ten-team, cross-conference playoff format, the Rapids are likely to make the playoffs. What does Colorado need to do, either during the transfer window or through tactical adjustments, to clinch a playoff spot and make a run for a consecutive MLS Cup?
Burgundy Wave: The Rapids desperately need to pick up a new left back. The weakest link on the team week in and week out is on the left side as Anthony Wallace has been completely locked out of playing for seemingly no reason - I've personally started a #FREEWALLY hashtag on twitter! - and the two other left backs being the terrible Scott Palguta and Danny Earls. Drew Moor has played at Left Back with some decent success but it's to the detriment of our central defense every time he does so. Tyrone Marshall has been good replacing him, but the season is only halfway over and he's starting to look tired because the guy is 36 after all.
There's a few other pieces the Rapids could use like a good attacking winger with better scoring touch than Nyassi or a strong and young central defensive midfielder to spell Pablo Mastroeni once in a while, but this team's fortunes will probably rest on whoever is manning the left side of the defense. Honestly, after that it all comes down to tactics and a bit of luck, two things which have evaded the Rapids recently as Gary Smith has tried to patch problems by putting out new, confusing lineups every week. Past that, the strikers are still top notch and four deep in depth for Colorado and the midfield can hold its own against just about anybody as long as they keep their form and play their possession-laden style of football.
And Burgundy Wave's three questions for Once a Metro:
1) Burgundy Wave: I know next to nothing about the newest Red Bull, goalkeeper Frank Rost. Tell us a little about the new guy manning the posts for NY.
Once a Metro: He's 6'4" but agile unlike former New York keeper Greg Sutton. He's a proven shot stopper having started hundreds of matches for Bundesliga clubs like Hamburg, Schalke, and Werder Bremen, and brings consistency and poise onto the field unlike now backup keeper Bouna Coundoul. Rost also played internationally for Germany a handful of times. He was signed as the Red Bulls' third and final designated player, and conflicting comments made by New York suggest that Rost could be with the team just for this season or they could extend his designated player contract next year.
Rost is still a bit of an unknown to Red Bull fans having barely trained with the team before getting the nod in his first start against Chivas USA on Saturday night. Since Chivas couldn't put a single shot on goal, Rost did not have a chance to show off his shot stopping ability (and in an ideal world, he won't have to do that often). What we did see (and hear after the match) was he already has helped to improve communication, organization, and confidence in the Red Bulls defense. Coincidentally or not, left back Roy Miller enjoyed his best game this season, getting forward and joining the attack regularly. And Rost made sure right back Jan Gunnar Solli knew to play an easy pass back to him next time after he made an awkward, errant clearance.
Center back Tim Ream summed up his position on the new player wearing sky blue in the back well after the match: "He's a veteran goalkeeper, he talks a lot, and he communicates well." If the Red Bulls wanted to make a run at the MLS Cup this season, they had to stop giving away silly goals, particularly off of set pieces. Rost should be an incredible upgrade in that department.
2) Burgundy Wave: The Red Bulls have had a flurry of activity in the transfer windows the last few years, with the two trades involving De Rosario, picking up Luke Rodgers, the Ballouchy for Kandji trade et al. Out of everything the Red Bulls have done since the start of 2010 what's the best and worst moves that they've made for the team?
Once a Metro: So many moves by the Red Bulls have raised eyebrows and drawn ire with supporters. And often, it seems that the most criticized moves are the moves the club is not making, failing to bring in anything resembling depth and leaving what appear to be high-paid, dead weight players on the roster.
That said, the worst move the Red Bulls have made since Hans Backe and Erik Soler have taken over the running of the club is how they bungled acquiring Dwayne de Rosario only to trade him for a player that was excessively available at a much lower price in the offseason. Dallas left Dax McCarty unprotected in the expansion draft and Portland took him for the sole purpose of shopping him around the league, ultimately trading him to DC for second-year defender Rodney Wallace and a fourth round draft pick. In comparison, the Red Bulls gave up Tony Tchani, Danleigh Borman, and a first round draft pick to acquire de Rosario from Toronto.
True, the Red Bulls thought they wanted to use a 4-4-2 diamond formation moving forward, and to do that successfully you need a creative, attacking midfielder. But midway through the season they change course to a flat 4-4-2 which often plays like a 4-2-3-1, and Dwayne de Rosario, who always wanted designated player money but probably would not have gotten it and left the club anyway, did not fit into that plan. Even worse, there was a miscommunication about DeRo's intention to play in the Gold Cup for Canada, which left New York woefully thin without five key players during the tournament.
The best move(s) the club has made was bringing in Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio, and Jan Gunnar Solli for the combined cost of a designated player against the salary cap. While guys like Henry, Marquez, Ream, and Agudelo have much higher name recognition (and jersey sales), the trio of European talent is a major reason that the Red Bulls are near the top of the Eastern Conference this season and haven't completely imploded.
3) Burgundy Wave: How will missing Rafa Marquez change the tactics and lineup for the Red Bulls on Wednesday?
Once a Metro: The Red Bulls have been missing Rafa since May 21st against the Houston Dynamo (not that we're counting). First absent to play for Mexico in the Gold Cup, if you watched the final between the U.S. and Mexico you saw Marquez subbed off due to injury early in the first half. We're still waiting for him to return and had hoped Wednesday night against Colorado would be his first match back. It's now looking like Backe wants to give him a couple days more in training and insert him back into the starting eleven at home against Dallas this weekend.
Rafa's absence has the biggest impact on the Red Bulls' possess and attack style. Carlos Mendes has filled in admirably defensively next to Tim Ream (they were New York's starting center backs for much of 2010 and have plenty of experience playing next to each other), but lacks Marquez's vision and ability to play long passes over the top to the speedy Dane Richards and Luke Rodgers. Tactically, it would have been interesting to see if Manager Hans Backe would have move Marquez up to defensive center midfield for a match that the club was missing Teemu Tainio due to yellow card accumulation.