So... here we go. The New York Red Bulls will either pull an upset this evening against the Los Angeles Galaxy and march on to face Real Salt Lake, or retreat meekly back into the shadows to lick their 16 year old wounds. In order to move forward in the playoffs, they will need to do what no other MLS team has managed to do this year: beat the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Given the Red Bulls' recent record against Los Angeles, a New York win is not beyond the realm of possibility, but if they are to succeed, Hans Backe's men will need to have a greater cutting edge in attack and show greater composure at the back than they did in the first leg at Red Bull Arena.
As a result of the well-publicized post-match fracas in Harrison, the Red Bulls will line up without Rafael Marquez. In fact, Marquez has been suspended for two additional matches for his role in Sunday's dust-up. In practical terms, this means that even if New York manages to get past the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake they will have to make do without MLS' villain of the moment in a very theoretical MLS Cup Final. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Given Marquez's meager contributions, his absence is hardly a killer for the Red Bulls. Dax McCarty gets the nod in the Mexican's place, and it's not a terrible trade-off.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, will have to make do without Juninho, arguably a more significant loss. With the Brazilian midfielder unavailable, Bruce Arena has surprised nobody by slotting in Chris Birchall.
One final note: the Red Bulls will be playing in their dark blue top and gold shorts - a combination not seen since their Emirates Cup victory. A positive omen? We shall see...
Join us here starting at 11PM ET for all the thrills, chills and spills. Oh, and Come on You Red Bulls!
Red Bulls: Frank Rost; Jan Gunnar Solli, Stephen Keel, Tim Ream, Roy Miller, Dane Richards, Teemu Tainio, Dax McCarty, Joel Lindpere; Luke Rodgers, Thierry Henry
Subs: Bouna Coundoul, Matt Kassel, Carlos Mendes, Stephane Auvray, Juan Agudelo, Mehdi Ballouchy
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, David Beckham, Chris Birchall, Mike Magee, Landon Donovan, Chad Barrett, Robbie Keane
Subs: Donovan Ricketts, Frankie Hejduk, Dasan Robinson, Jovan Kirovski, Michael Stephens, Paolo Cardozo, Adam Cristman