What a difference a game makes, and the timing could not have been better for the New York Red Bulls as they look to extend their momentum from their first win of the season against the Montreal Impact this Saturday.
Last week against the Colorado Rapids, the return of Rafa Marquez and Wilman Conde brought composure and energy to New York's backline and midfield, allowing Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper to focus on scoring goals (four of them) instead of dropping back throughout the match. The biggest player news this week is an expected final decision on Luke Rodgers' visa renewal on Friday, but also Teemu Tainio will return after missing last week with an ankle injury. Inserting Tainio into the starting eleven would mean a return to the bench for Dax McCarty who paired well with Marquez last week .
The expansion Montreal Impact are 0-2-1 in their first three matches, losing away at Vancouver and Columbus and taking a point from Chicago in their home opener, as Davy Arnaud scored a header off of Sanna Nyassi's cross in front of nearly 60,000 fans in attendance for the Impact's first goal in Major League Soccer.
Keeping the match close will require incredible performances by Arnaud and fellow midfielder Justin Mapp. Forwards Justin Braun and Sanna Nyassi, who have given Red Bulls defenders fits in the past, will have to finish their opportunities - something neither has been able to do thus far in 2012 for their new club.
Montreal will be without starting defender Jeb Brovsky who was shown red last week against the Columbus Crew and is suspended. However, U-23 national team left back Zarek Valentine will be available following the United States' early exit from Olympic qualifying this week. New York fans may also get a look at another rising talent in the U.S. pool, Andrew Wenger, who was the first overall pick in this year's MLS Super Draft.
Montreal has two former New York players, Greg Sutton and Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who are more likely to see time in a reserve match game with New York on Sunday than play on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. Neither has a single minute for the Impact's first team so far this season, but both started in Montreal's 2-1 reserve team win over Columbus last week.
Can New York follow up an impressive home opener with another positive result against Montreal? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and while you're at it be sure to check-out the Three Questions post Once a Metro Managing Editor Ben Schneider did with the Impact blog Mt. Royal Soccer.