The New York Red Bulls host Real Salt Lake tonight in a mid-week matchup with huge implications for both sides. RSL wants to keep pace with the LA Galaxy for a run at the supporters' shield and New York can continue to keep their playoff hopes realistically alive by accumulating points - preferably three at a time.
Salt Lake will be missing captain and midfielder Kyle Beckerman due to yellow card accumulation. Both Javier Morales and Long Island native Chris Wingert will be traveling with the team as they work to return to form after injuries have kept them out of any first team action. It's not likely either will feature at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls will be surprisingly close to full strength in their starting eleven with only Carlos Mendes filling in for usual left back Roy Miller (injured). How long those eleven can last is another matter as Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers may not last very long into the second half. If New York scores early, count on the team bunkering in for some edge-of-your-seat-not-in-a-good-way soccer.
The absence of Beckerman will be huge for RSL. When Salt Lake struggled earlier in the season, manager Jason Kreis called on the team to play more through Captain Kyle. Without a similar replacement, one possibility is injecting recent acquisition Yordany Alvarez, the USL MVP on loan from Orlando City, into the lineup.
New York has not won consecutive matches since April when they did the unthinkable - earning a full nine points out of three matches to end the month. Even without Beckerman, Real Salt Lake will be an incredible challenge for the Red Bulls who lost 3-0 at Rio Tinto earlier in the season.
We'll be following the game live below and posting some thoughts afterwards. If you aren't making it to the Arena (how could you not on "College Night?"), kickoff is at 8 pm on MSG.