Tomorrow marks the beginning of the toughest month for the Red Bulls this year. The Red Bulls travel to Salt Lake to take on Real Salt Lake in a match to determine who is the best #2 team in their respected conference. These teams have had similar paths this year. Real Salt Lake are the defending league champions and a win this weekend and a loss by the Galaxy will place both as the #1 in the West. The Red Bulls are perhaps the most improved team in the MLS. With major news worthy signings as well as a goalie not named Conway, the Red Bulls winning tomorrow would put them one point behind the Columbus Crew.
The Red Bulls will be affected by national team call ups with Bouna Coundoul, Rafael Marquez, Dane Richards, and Roy Miller all pulling international duty. Bouna has been an amazing goalie this year as the league leader in clean sheets. The loss of Dane Richards and Rafael Marquez is a shame as the starting lineup was finally clicking and this is a game without our players on the same wavelength. The good news is that Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel are both still in the line up and Macoumba Kandji should start. Kandji had an amazing game against Manchester City but due to slacking off in practice, he fell out of the starting line up. At 6'4", he's almost impossible for a team to cover at the attacking midfield role. The Red Bulls offense should test the RSL defense and as an optimist I'd like to believe the pairing of the DPs up top should be more than enough to put two in net, but Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave have been phenomenal this year and I wouldn't be surprised for the Salt Lake team to keep a clean sheet.
The key match up in my opinion is Robbie Findley, who perhaps was the biggest waste of a roster spot for the National team in South Africa, and the Tim Ream/Carlos Mendes duo. Findley has the speed to cause a ton of problems for a very technical but not high paced Red Bulls defense, but lacks the finishing ability of RSL's leading scorer Alvaro Saborio. If Findley can out pace our defense, it will be a long night in Salt Lake; however, if our defense can mark him, the Red Bulls have a solid chance at coming away with a W. Greg Sutton will be starting in net. He's a smarter goal keeper than Coundoul but not as athletic which is a fear in my eyes.
Final thoughts after the jump
Historically speaking, the Red Bulls should win. They are 3-1-6 all time against the Real Salt Lake. However, once you look at the numbers further, you'll see that the New York team has never won a regular season game at Rio Tinto and Salt Lake has scored more goals in the overall series. This game also has other significance, as Real Salt Lake is currently riding a 21 straight game home win streak. The Red Bulls have played spoiler this year with our win at Toronto. The big question is if they can do it again.
I'll have a game thread up tomorrow around 6pm EST. Game will air at 9pm on MSG.