First, our questions for them...
OAM: What are the concerns Rapids fans have with Pablo Mastroeni taking over as head coach, especially so close to the season opener? Are there any?
White: We're most concerned about his tactical acumen. We know that he's going to have the locker room respect that a good manager needs, we know that he knows the game very well and he's stepping into a situation where the team won't be undergoing a major change in the way that they play from last season. That means that Pablo's first season will likely just be down to his in-game management. Since he's ever had a coaching position before, having come straight from playing into a head coaching spot, it's hard to know how fast he'll get used to the various ins and outs of roster and on-field management. Oscar Pareja had the same questions when the Rapids hired him, and he failed miserably in his first season. The majority of the Rapids fanbase seems to be optimistic regarding his chances, but we won't really know until we're a bit into the season.
As far as the timing of the hire, there aren't really any concerns. I've rarely seen a dumber storyline pushed by the media than the 'Rapids have no coach' one that was rampant the past week or two. The people who were screaming about that were either being disingenuous or simply don't know what they're talking about. Pablo had been the head coach of the team for nearly two months before it was made official, and nobody who was following the team ever actually thought someone else would take the job from him. It was simply a change of label when they actually had him sign the contract.
OAM: The Rapids were a surprise in 2013. Can they keep it up in 2014? What do they have to do to do so?
White: Honestly, there's really no reason why they shouldn't be able to. Barring a massive, team-wide sophomore slump, the roster is still talented enough to beat anyone in MLS. Pablo is going into a much better situation as a coach than Oscar was originally, and they'll be playing essentially the same style as before. At the very least, there almost certainly won't be the collapse that some people seem to be expecting.
OAM: Who should Red Bulls fans worry about Saturday and why?
White: Keep your eyes on Deshorn Brown. The Jamaican spitfire had a really good rookie year, with 10 goals and four assists. There was much work to be done with his game though, especially his vision on the field and his finishing. He showed improvements on both in preseason and helped his country with two goals over the break as well. Even when he's not at his best, he's worth watching out for because he's a special player who can create something out of nothing with his rare combination of speed and strength.
OAM: Line-up? Who do you think will win?
White: 4-2-3-1: Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Shane O'Neill; Nathan Sturgis, Jose Mari; Deshorn Brown, Dillon Powers, Gabriel Torres; Edson Buddle
Prediction: 2-1 NYRB
Their questions for us...
White: So, what exactly happened against Vancouver in Week 1? We know that NYRB were missing arguably their two best players, but do you think that game was simply a fluke or a sign of some potential deficiencies on the Red Bulls that other teams might be able to key into this season?
OAM: In addition to missing their two best players, there were some line-up issues,. Mike Petke played Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula up front. Both players seemed to spend the majority of the game in midfield, despite the Red Bulls seeing the majority of the ball. That's probably because the natural position for both players is in the hole behind the striker. That frees Cahill or Luyindula to drop back into a more natural position, where they can contribute both offensively and defensively. Bradley Wright-Phillips, who probably should've been starting, came on in the 73rd minute, it was too late for him to make a difference.
There's no guarantee that a different line-up would've changed the result, since Jamison Olave makes the whole back line work, but with a different line-up and tactics, I don't think the game ends 4-1.
White: We haven't heard much from former Rapids fan favorite Kosuke Kimura lately, how's he done with NYRB since finding his way there from Portland?
OAM: Kimura's tenure with the Red Bulls has been a perpetual battle for the right back position. First it was with fan favorite Brandon Barklage. Since Barklage has been jettisoned, he's now fighting it out with former Toronto FC player Richard Eckersley.
That said, Kimura is really no better or worse than Barklage or Eckersley. Whether he's playing seems to come down to his performances in practice.
White: All of us know the marquee names on the Red Bulls. Who's a lesser known guy we should be watching out for on Saturday?
OAM: Does Dax McCarty count? I'm sure plenty of people know his name, but when he's at his best, he can contribute both defensively (obviously) and offensively.
If not, Armando is going to be an important player. Despite giving up four goals against Vancouver, he didn't have a bad game, as a good bit of the blame for the goals falls on the shoulders of the midfield. He's got the potential to make us forget about Markus Holgersson, who worked his way into our hearts in his two years with the team.