After a disappointing match to open the 2012 season against FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls face another tough test on Saturday night away at Real Salt Lake. RSL, the top team in MLS according to the Once a Metro MLS Power Rankings Index, has only lost four regular season games at home since their stadium, Rio Tinto, opened in October of 2008.
While we took a look at Real Salt Lake and their history against New York earlier this week, a few mentionable notes have arisen leading into the weekend. Considered to have one of the deeper rosters in the league, RSL will be stretched a little thin as Jason Kreis told Extra Time Radio that Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio picked up injuries opening weekend and in training this week and are "highly questionable."In addition to Morales and Saborio, starting right back Tony Beltran also picked up a knock against the L.A. Galaxy and will likely miss the match. Nat Borchers played his first competitive soccer of 2012 going forty-five minutes in a reserve match midweek, and his availability Saturday is still undetermined. Finally, Will Johnson remains sidelined from pre-season abdominal surgery.
New York will also be missing players, but only one due to injury. Juan Agudelo has been called up to the U-23 team for 2012 Summer Olympics Qualifiers. Luke Rodgers still has yet to receive a decision regarding his visa renewal. And Rafa Marquez has one game remaining on his three-match suspension that carried over from his post-match red card against the Galaxy in the 2011 playoffs. Since Brian Nielsen is no longer with the team, the only currently injured Red Bull is Wilman Conde, who Manager Hans Backe hopes will return to training on Monday and possibly feature in New York's home opener against Colorado on March 25.
Expect the same starting lineup for New York as last week except for Kenny Cooper starting at forward instead of Juan Agudelo. Without any strong attacking options off the bench, Backe could adjust to a 4-3-3 if New York falls behind, or look for newcomer Victor Palsson to get some substantial minutes if the Red Bulls' offense is as stagnant as it was last week. Another question is when will Backe give rookie Connor Lade a shot at left back? Roy Miller left a lot to be desired last week, and reports out of training indicate that Lade has continued his impressive preseason form in training.