Whelp, it looks like the New York Red Bulls will be playing the Houston Dynamo.......again. Any one else starting to get sick of those guys? Fortunately, there are a few big differences between Sunday's upcoming match and the last few times these teams have met. The first and most glaring is the fact that, this time, New York is heading into Houston with some protection (not that they've really needed it). A Shield, to be specific. A Supporter's Shield to be even more specific. So whatever level of confidence they've been feeling over the last few months has got to be amplified tenfold. Another obvious difference? This is the Eastern Conference semifinals. That means this time we're playing for keeps. While I'm sure everyone would have preferred a two leg series against a woeful Montreal Impact, the Dynamo haven't exactly been a thorn in the Red Bulls' side this season. Still, that's no reason to feel like they have this one in the bag.
Here's what we know:
- The Red Bulls are scoring from all over the pitch.
Last Sunday the New York Red Bulls torched the Chicago Fire (pun absolutely intended) by a score of 5-2. Five goals from five different players. That's a far cry from last year's squad that depended mostly on team captain, Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper. With New York scoring from up top, the wings, the midfield and even the defense, they're going to give any playoff team's back line fits for ninety minutes.
- Luyindula adds a much needed layer of depth to the midfield.
If I had told you a few months ago that Peguy Luyindula would have made a good attacking midfielder, you would have called me crazy. Oh wait, I DID say that he would make a good attacking midfielder! See? You guys never believe me. Moving on...the former French international and stone footed forward has been a revelation in the middle of the pitch for New York. With his outstanding hold up play and excellent creative vision, he was responsible for more than one of the Red Bulls goals in last Sunday's Shield winning match. Having a player like Peguy allows Henry to stay forward without having to worry about dropping back to receive the ball. This makes for an incredibly dangerous attack.
- Will Bruin seems to be back on track.
Here's what we don't know:
- Is Kinnear time a Red Bull fear time? (I got a million of'um.)
You can't go five minutes into any MLS centric podcast without hearing someone talk about how the playoffs are "Dom Kinnear time." The Dynamo coach has successfully brought his team through the playoffs for the last two years running, only to be beaten in the Cup Final both times by the LA Galaxy. Effectively making Houston the Buffalo Bills of Major League Soccer. So should the Red Bulls be worried? Probably a little bit. While New York has had their way with the Dynamo all season, the playoffs are a different best all together and require a totally different mentality. Even the worst teams will put up a hell of a fight when they know their season is on the line....unless said worst team is the Montreal Impact. Just yikes.
Here's what we think:
There's no questioning New York's form right now. They're going into the playoffs as hot as any team still in the running for the cup. Houston also got a massive confidence boost from their convincing beat down last night. Both teams have a decent chance of coming out of Sunday's match with a win, but only New York has to travel twice in three days before the next meeting on Wednesday. The Red Bulls need to get some points on the board during the away leg in order to take some pressure off of their backs for the home match where they'll most likely be playing tired. Luckily, Houston has very little time to recoup after an intensely physical play-in round, giving our boys in white a slight advantage.