Today is the biggest game of the New York Red Bulls' season so far as the Great Satan, DC United, visit Red Bull Arena for a clash of first against third in the Eastern Conference. A win for New York (by two goals) would avenge the loss that definitely didn't happen back in April and vault the Red Bulls into first place in the East.
This feels like a must-win game -- at a time of year when there are no must-win games. But New York's spring momentum has ground to a halt, and two points from nine have seen the Red Bulls slip a bit in the Eastern Conference table. Not only is this a derby, but a potential pivot point (how's that for alliteration?) for the remainder of the season. A win sets the Red Bulls back on track, while a loss....let's not talk about that possibility.
DC have been in very good form of late, with four wins on the bounce coming into Sunday's match, although only the most recent victory was away from home. They've been flat-track bullies to a large extent this year; Houston and the Red Bulls have been the only top-half teams they've beaten, and four of their nine victories have been against the bottom three teams in the league (Dallas, Philadelphia, and Toronto).
The Red Bulls are unbeaten at home in their six matches at RBA this season, with four wins, two draws, and goals in every game. Thierry Henry might even -- fingers crossed -- be back for his first match since late May. The fitness of Rafa Márquez doesn't really matter, and the only other players ruled out are Teemu Tainio and José Angulo, who have long-term injuries. As a result, the New York XI will probably be very similar to the team that drew with Vancouver in midweek, with Henry possibly returning up top and a reversion to 4-4-2.
I cannot emphasize enough just how important it is to win this match. Because DC are pure evil, New York needs momentum, and the club needs to stave off the return of its early-season CRISIS, this is a huge game.