Going into the game tomorrow versus D.C., I sent Martin Shatzer of SBNation's very own Black and Red United some questions regarding the match-up and the state of the United. I also answered some questions from him which you'll be able to read on his site. The game is not only important for the Red Bulls to keep their spot in the Eastern Conference standings, but also because a win gives the team its first Atlantic Cup in since 2003.
This game decides who takes home the Atlantic Cup this year. The first game ended with the Red Bulls winning 2-0 with DC missing a bunch of scoring opportunities while giving up two goals due to defensive gaffs. What adjustments must DC make to keep this game competitive?
DC seems to have turned a corner from the beginning of the season. The loss to Columbus showed the DC team is finally playing together and the recent tie against a tough San Jose team has to feel good. What is the biggest difference in the DC team now than the team at the start of the season and do you think this momentum will carry over to the game at Red Bull Arena?
DC recently released Christian Castillo who was very underwhelming at midfield and picked up a dangerous striker in Pablo Hernandez, what are the realistic expectations for Hernandez? Christian Castillo had a pretty decent game against the Red Bulls, will he be missed in the line up? Is Hernandez a big enough name to help with DC's attendance issues?
1. The Red Bulls have done well this year at beating up on lesser opponents (which is more than I can say for D.C. United), but they haven't defeated a team with a winning record since mid-April. Do you expect the team to remain near the top of the Eastern Conference when the schedule gets tougher in August and September?
I think at this point the Red Bulls are finally jelling as a team. The defense substition of Carlos Mendes for Mike Petke and adding Tony Tchani at midfield for Dane Richards have fixed issues we had at both positions. Mike Petke, while our heart and soul, has lost a step and Dane Richards just never really fit into the system that Hans Backe has been running. I think August and September will be very telling but removing Salou Ibrahim and adding Thierry Henry to the line up should give the Red Bulls the strongest attack in the league which should help maintain their position as a legitimate threat going into the playoffs.
2. Am I missing something with Tim Ream? I mean it's great and all that he's anchoring New York's backline as a rookie, but I don't see him yet as one of the top defenders in the league. Yet I keep hearing his name mentioned for rookie of the year and the All Star game. Does he deserve national attention?
Tim Ream has been playing incredibly well this year minus the own goal versus New England while on the road. I think people are crowning him a little too early but he definitely has the potential to develop into a National Team-esque talent. He's shown a ton of upside but it could be like what happened to Jozy Altidore, where he has a great couple of years and then his development gets smashed because of poor career planning and going to the EPL too soon. I don't think he's ready for the All Star game but he is making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. The second half of the season will say a lot about where he is currently when the Red Bulls play the stronger teams in the MLS.
3. What Red Bulls player has impressed you the most so far, besides the obvious Juan Pablo Angeland Joel Lindpere? Is there someone flying under the radar that we should be concerned about?
This may surprise you but in my opinion, the most impressive player has been Sinisa Ubiparipovic. While Juan Pablo Angel has finally started to hit his stride and put the ball in the back of the net and Joel Lindpere has proven to be a legitimate international talent, Ubiparipovic has skated under the radar. He doesn't have the stats that pop out but he has the consistent style of play that is very difficult to plan for. He's our most under rated player who could be the decider in the game on Saturday.