The New York Red Bulls head north this weekend to play the Montreal Impact for the third and likely final time this season. In their first meeting back in March, the Red Bulls fell behind twice in the first half but took control behind a Thierry Henry hat trick to win 5-2. New York then traveled to Montreal to play on the carpethardwood floorpit of spikes from Super Mario Brothers turf at Olympic Stadium on May 19. Despite the send off of Victor Palsson for a second yellow card ten minutes into the second half, the Red Bulls were able to pull off a 2-1 victory.
Since the game on Saturday will be played on grass at the Impact's new Stade Saputo, Thierry Henry will be looking to repeat his impressive three-goal performance from March to help keep the Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference standings and in the hunt for the Supporters' Shield.
Ahead of the match, we swapped three questions with Giovanni Sardo of the Montreal Impact blog Mount Royal Soccer. Read on for his take about the oddities of Major League Soccer scheduling, roster changes and a bold prediction for the match. You can also read our thoughts on the Red Bulls heading into the match here.
1) As an expansion side there are bound to be a number of personnel changes throughout the first season. With the transfer window coming to a close, are you satisfied with the state of the roster?What are remaining positions or areas of need?
Overall, we are not far away from being a playoff team. We just need a couple of pieces to really fill this team out and be a constant threat.
That's the best CB trio in the MLS right there. Having them on the field will clean up most of our defensive issues except one. I'd like to see our backup keeper (last year's NASL keeper of the year) Evan Bush start over Donovan Ricketts. Ricketts fumbles the ball too much, is poor at setting up set piece defence and just doesn't have the trust of his backline. Bush is more athletic, a better communicator and commands his defense.
In midfield, we could use another creative and offensive mind to compliment rising star Felipe. While Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp have had their moments, they are constantly late with their service to the forwards. There are communication issues there. Another creative midfielder would open up space and allow more flow to the offense.
The main need is at the forward position. The reason why DP Marco Di Vaio hasn't scored in the MLS yet is because he doesn't have any help! Number 1 overall pick Andrew Wenger is back from injury and should start the rest of the way with MDV, giving him the support and space he needs to break away from coverage. After that, we are paper thin. There is 39 year old NASL holdover Eduardo Sebrango who has been ineffective in limited minutes. There's also Evan James, a rookie who is back from injury but has yet to crack the game day roster. Any one who knows a bit about Soccer knows that you can't live and die on 2 forwards. The Impact front office needs to go out and get 2 more quality forwards for this roster. Can't go to sleep at night and pray that Wenger and Di Vaio will last 90 minutes every game and be effective. You need options. You need to cover for fatigue and injury. If an opposing defense sees one of those two forwards come off the field, they can start smiling.
2) Due to the oddities of Major League Soccer scheduling, Montreal has played three more games than DC United and the Chicago Fire and FIVE more games than the Columbus Crew. Has the front loading of games had any impact on the team's results? With a relatively more spaced out schedule down the stretch does Montreal have a chance of grabbing an Eastern Conference playoff spot?
The front loaded schedule has really hurt this team. A condensed schedule is hard enough for an experienced team. Has an expansion team, you need those breaks in between games to make adjustments, give a rest to your key players and allow for a better chemistry to set in. A regular schedule could have allowed us to have Andrew Wenger, Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas for a couple of extra games already. That would have translated into a few extra points in the standings.
The Impact still have a shot at the playoffs but there is the added pressure of not being allowed to make a mistake. It's not impossible but the odds are not good. If we can stay healthy the rest of the way and we can add another forward or two, we have a chance.
Simply put, we have to become the HOTTEST team in the MLS from now until the end of the regular season.
3) Montreal is 4th in the league in shots per game and 7th in average goals. How is this team not higher up in the standings?
You can be first in the league in shots per game but if they are not quality shots, it simply doesn't matter.
The revolving door at forward hasn't helped... Bernardo Corradi (injured), Justin Braun (ineffective and traded), Miguel Montano (ineffective and loaned out), Eduardo Sebrango (ineffective and old), Andrew Wenger (school and injured) as well as inconsistent cameo appearances by midfielders Davy Arnaud and Sanna Nyassi just haven't helped. Now that Di Vaio is in the mix and Wenger is back, the opposing defenses will have more headaches and our goals per game will only increase.
The biggest issue is defensively. Injuries to our starting CBs and the erratic play from Donovan Ricketts has allowed other teams to fill the net against us. Now that everyone is healthy, we shouldn't be fishing the ball out of the back of our own net so often.
BONUS 1: Who are the most dangerous attacking players New York will see on Saturday? Who is an underrated player to look out for?
This will be the first true game (they played together in the exhibition against Olympique de Lyon) where Marco Di Vaio and Andrew Wenger will be on the field together. They seem to have a good chemistry already. Look for them to really give the Red Bulls' defense headaches all game long.
As for underrated players, I'll go with Jeb Brovsky and Karl W. Ouimette.
Brovsky, who converted to full back in the off season, has been a pleasant surprise for the Impact. He's not flashy but he's tough to play against, is rarely out of position and can start the counter attack. He's the kind of guy who won't win you the game, but he won't lose it for you either.
Ouimette is the new kid on the block. He was recently signed from our academy. He had a successful baptism by fire against the Houston Dynamo last week. Despite the Impact getting blown out of the water, he showed great poise and aggressivity. He also stood his own in the exhibition game against Olympique de Lyon. Remember his name, he's going to be a good one.
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