Both the New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids will be playing for a first this Sunday. While New York will be fighting for their first win of the 2012 season, Colorado will try to win its first game at Red Bull Arena after going 0-2-1 across all competitions since the stadium opened.
Under new head coach Oscar Pareja, Colorado has switched to a 4-3-3 attacking formation that has looked strong centrally but can leave the wings wide open for Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards to have their first solid showing this season. In addition, central midfielder and U.S. National Team capped Jeff Larentowicz is suspended for the match. Making matters worse for Colorado, his central midfield partner and team captain, Pablo Mastroeni, has missed training this week suffering from post-concussion like symptoms, and his status for Sunday is unclear.
The absence of two of Colorado's more recognizable players, however, will give fans a chance to pay closer attention to newcomers Jaime Castrillon and Tony Cascio. Castrillon has twenty nine caps for Colombia's national team, and has looked like a significant acquisition for the Rapids. Cascio was a bit of a surprise as the fourteenth pick in the 2012 Super Draft out of the University of Connecticut, but he has started both games for Colorado and scored what turned out to be the game winner last week against the Union. His early performance has even spurred a call for Cascio to get a shot on Caleb Porter's U-23 Olympics roster.
The Rapids defense has started 2012 well, conceding one goal in their first two matches. Centerback Drew Moor even scored the first goal of the Rapids season and right back Kosuke Kimura, who started every league game for Colorado in 2011, already has two assists. Moor's centerback partner, Marvell Wynne, is one of if not the fastest center back in MLS. The defense is rounded out by another speedster and natural left back, Luis Zapata, who is in his first MLS season but a veteran of the Venezuelan and Colombian leagues.
New York will welcome back designated player Rafa Marquez on Sunday from his three-game suspension picked up during last season's playoff loss to the L.A. Galaxy. Wilman Conde has resumed training with the club but missed practice on Thursday to fly to Mexico and take care of a paperwork issue. Teemu Tainio is questionable, and his absence may force Red Bulls Manager Hans Backe to use a more attacking player as opposed to two holding midfielders.
Luke Rodgers and Juan Agudelo are both away from the team and unavailable for the match, meaning Kenny Cooper should get the start. New York's attack has looked entirely stagnant except during Cooper's thirty minute appearance off the bench in the Red Bulls' season opener against FC Dallas. However, Backe has moved Dane Richards up top in the past, so Dax McCarty on the right and Richards at forward would be far from a shocking switch.
How do you think New York will lineup on Sunday? More importantly, how do you think they should? Let us know in the comments and feel free to include a prediction for the match.