1. Are you surprised by any of three ex-RSL Red Bulls this season?
Olave, plain and simple. I mean, he's already played nearly as many matches this season as he did in last season - it's as if his injury woes have suddenly vanished. I suspect this has something to do with playing style, but I have no evidence to support that. He's been as strong as ever, better scoring goals, and actually healthy. Good for him. I'm less surprised by Espindola (when the goals don't come, he gets frustrated) and Steele (except that he's playing frequently.)
2. Alvaro Saborio is back from Gold Cup duty, but Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are still with the USMNT. How big an addition (re-addition?) is Saborio and how big a loss is Beckerman and Rimando?
Saborio is a big addition, but he's certainly not the most important one: Beckerman, Rimando and, I'd say, Tony Beltran are all important players - and given our injury concerns, getting Rimando and Beltran back in is essential. Now, I'm very pleased we've made the Gold Cup final, but I'm excited to get those three back. Still, this is a perfect game for Saborio's return - he tends to play up a bit.
3. RSL is leading the Supporters' Shield race, but no one seems to want to win it. Can Jason Kreis and company make the top spot theirs?
Yes. Next question.
Really, though, there's every hope we'll be able to. We're not presuming we will, and given our injury concerns and some of the rougher edges around the squad, I doubt the Shield itself is a priority. More important right now will be winning the US Open Cup and getting into the playoffs without major injuries and in good form.
Now, their questions for us...
1. So, uh, you've got three of our guys. Do you mind if we take one of them? Maybe the defender? In all seriousness, Jamison Olave has been a constant for your side. What has been the key for his involvement? Is he one of your best options?
A big part of that is cleaning up the messes his less athletic partner Markus Holgersson makes. Holgersson puts in a great tackle, has a pretty good soccer IQ, makes some great passes and is more athletic than he gets credit for, but he lacks the physical prowess. When Holgersson screws up, it's Olave who sets up.
I didn't expect him to be so good offensively, either.
And I think we'll be holding on to him...
2. Thierry Henry has said several times that Real Salt Lake is a side he admires in MLS. Most recently, he described us as the "best team" despite not winning titles since 2009. What value do you see in his statements before this match? Is it a bit of mind games from a very clever player, or is he simply paying tribute to our style? (Also, can we have Henry on loan? Please? We have more players we can give you.)
The thing that sets Thierry Henry -- and Tim Cahill -- apart is that despite their status as superstars of the game, they don't look down on MLS. Henry takes time to learn about the league. I don't think his praise is anything but legitimate. Many thing his admiration for RSL is part of the reason the Red Bulls' new regime went out and got Olave and Fabian Espindola.
And stop trying to steal our players, Matt.
3. NYRB (or is it RBNY?) have been in a bit of a slump in their past six or so matches. What's key to get them moving again? Is it something that Jason Kreis should be worried about?
First off, the crest says "Red Bull New York" so usually we go with RBNY.
To your question: If Jason Kreis is going to have to worry about anything, it's the venue. Yeah, the Montreal Impact limped into Red Bull Arena two weeks ago, but I think people expected them to put up something resembling a fight. Instead, the Impact got eviscerated.
During that game, MSG flashed a stat that the Red Bulls are undefeated, or nearly undefeated, at home against first place teams. For whatever reason, the Red Bulls play to their opponent. If they're playing a bottom feeding team like Toronto FC, they'll play to their level and limp out of BMO Field with a measly point for their efforts. When they play teams like the Impact or the LA Galaxy or the Portland Timbers, they step it up.
Kreis can make all the adjustments he wants, but he can't move the game away from Red Bull Arena.