On May 20th Columbus Crew came into our house and thoroughly worked the Red Bulls. The team had lost on the road at San Jose 4-0 and then a heartbreaking loss to Seattle at home 1-0. Team moral was low and our line up was still in flux. Needless to say, May was a terrible month for the team that also the month that saw 11 goals added to our goals against, which is ridiculous. The Red Bulls have turned it around and have been in the points column with 3 straight wins in June and 2 ties in July. A win at Columbus puts us back on top of the East.
Now what changes have been made since then? Well the biggest is that Mike Petke is out of the starting line up. He was a great mentor to Tim Ream and I don't doubt he's still giving advice at practice, but unfortunately he's lost a step and can't keep up with the league. He had five yellow cards on the season before being moved out of the starting XI for Carlos Mendes. I'm also hoping the Red Bulls don't put 3 shots off the posts/woodwork.
Now the rest of my thoughts are after the jump, including probable starting XI...
The most probable starting line up shows Bouna Coundoul in net who has been on a roll lately. He's playing an aggressive game while also minding where he is in the box. I'm hoping he can keep this going as if he's on, the rest of the team is on as well.
The Red Bull defense has been playing with a ton of confidence, albeit against weak opposition, and the starters should be Danleigh Borman, Tim Ream, Carlos Mendes, and Chris Albright. The defense was the biggest question mark going into the season and have actually been one of the most reliable parts of the team. Tim Ream has been making a very strong case for Rookie of the Year. I'll actually discuss this further in another story coming next week. There has also been discussion for him to be a candidate for the US Mens National Team in 2014 when he'll be 26.
The midfield is actually the weakest part of the team's line up and has been since the beginning of the season. Bright spots of Joel Lindpere and Sinisa Ubiparipovic are dulled by the mediocre play of Dane Richards. Seth Stammler rounds out the midfield. With Macoumba Kandji returning from injury, I hope he replaces Richards in the line up within the next few weeks. He's just a better, more consistent player than Richards and a future line up of Henry/Angel/Kandji/Lindpere/Ubiparipovic is very scary.
This brings me to our starting attack. Juan Pablo Angel has had an amazing season so far, arguably since he first entered the league. He's recorded 9 goals in 15 appearances and has been our sole scoring threat as Salou Ibrahim has been very tentative and can't seem to find the back of the net. This will be the last game without Thierry Henry in the line up so I'd expect Salou to play well just to justify to Hans some future playing time.
The big question is how the team will play against a very good opponent. It's easy to beat up on the weak but August and September are essentially a murderers row of games playing the most talented in the league. This will be very telling as to where the Red Bulls sit in the league. They had opportunities to beat Columbus while at home, now going into Crew Stadium, they'll need to convert on those chances. They had 10 shots on goal and only put one in the back of the net. Unacceptable if you want to compete in an ever improving MLS.