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Previewing Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders FC

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The Red Bulls get a good test of just how far they've really come from last year as tonight they travel to the Pacific Northwest for a clash with Seattle Sounders FC. Coming off a 1-0 win in their season opener last week against the Chicago Fire, optimism is abound for the team and their fans. Tonight, however, will be a true litmus test, as the Red Bulls hit the road for the first time, and face a club many are picking to hoist MLS Cup in November.

To say that the Red Bulls were bad on the road last year is a gross understatement: they didn't win a single league match away from home last season. It really is astonishing in a salary capped league with as much parity as MLS for a team to go winless in 15 matches on the road. While playing away from home in any sport presents its challenges, it's amazing that New York couldn't muster one road win last season. There are a lot of returning players from last year's debacle, so we'll see whether the road futility is still playing on their minds in 2010. On top of that, this is no ordinary road game, as Qwest Field will be packed and deafening as usual.

The Red Bulls will be without Carl Robinson again, who is out for another week with a knee sprain. We could see the exact same starting lineup as the Red Bulls trotted out last weekend against Chicago. Expect the back four of Jeremy Hall, Mike Petke, Tim Ream, and Roy Miller to stay intact and play in front of keeper Bouna Coundoul. It will be interesting to see if Hans Backe stays with the same midfield this week. Robinson's injury might force Backe's hand, but you start to wonder what role Seth Stammler plays on this team if he doesn't start in place of Robinson tonight. Stammler is the right choice to play center midfield with Joel Lindpere, not Sinisa Ubiparipovic. Stammler is a veteran who won't be affected by the road game and raucous atmosphere of Qwest. The Red Bulls could certainly use his calm presence, and his ability to break up plays in the midfield wouldn't hurt one bit either. Below is how I see the Red Bulls lining up tonight:

-------------------------------------------------------Angel-------------------------------Kandji-------------------------------------------------------

-------------------Borman--------------------------Lindpere--------------------------Stammler------------------Richards--------------------

---------------------Miller-----------------------------------Petke--------------------Ream--------------------------------Hall--------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------------Coundoul---------------------------------------------------------------------

Another possibility I would consider is moving Mac Kandji out on the left flank and starting John Wolyniec up top with Juan Pablo Angel. Kandji isn't the best choice at left midfield on most nights, but his pace could help open things up for the rest of the midfield and the forwards. Also, Wolyniec would be a good choice for a tough road match such as this one. Either way, I expect to see Wolyniec at some point tonight, especially in the case that the Red Bulls have a lead to protect in the 2nd half.

Prediction

The Red Bulls that were around last season remember the 3-0 thrashing they received on opening night of 2009. They owe the Sounders one in Qwest Field. Of course that's something way easier said than done. Still, the Red Bulls do enough to get a draw. Backe will have them play a conservative and organized defensive game and try to hit on the counter attack. The Red Bulls get the first goal but give it back somewhat late in the contest, as the teams share the spoils in a 1-1 affair.