The New York Red Bulls are coming off of their second loss of the season after last Saturday's game against D.C. United. Luckily, they won't have much time to feel bad about themselves because the Philadelphia Union is coming to town in just two day's time. Still winless, this Wednesday will give New York a chance to notch their first win of 2014 in front of a home crowed in Red Bull Arena. Can Petke's boys get the job done? Let's take a look at their chances.
Here's what we know:
- Mike Petke and company aren't ready to panic...
....but everyone else is. As Austin Fido eloquently demonstrated earlier this week, it's a supporter's duty to do a little bit of panicking. It's the player's and the coach's job to focus on what needs to get done in order to improve in the next game. As far as head coach Mike Petke is concerned, that's just what the Red Bulls are doing. Are the boys right in feeling confident after last week's performance? Maybe. Sure they dominated possession and unleashed an onslaught of attack, but as the MLS digital shows us, what good is an onslaught if it doesn't yield any results?
- This is a much improved Union.
Unlike New York, the Philadelphia Union made some pretty impressive signings over the off season. Most impressive was their acquisition of US International midfielder, Maurice Edu. Edu not only helps to solidify the Unions defense by adding some stability in the CDM role, he also benefits from being partnered up with Philadelphia's new, Argentine attacking midfielder, Cristian Maidana. Anyone who has been keeping an eye on the Union this season can tell that the pair immediately and drastically improved an ailing midfield. Dax McCarty is going to have a wild night.
- The Union has been leaking late goals.
Out of six games played, Philadelphia has allowed four goals after the eightieth minute. This is a interesting little fact considering New York doesn't really like to turn on the attack until the second half or later. If the Red Bulls are able to employ the same kind of pressure as they did last week against United, they should be able to notch a few late in the game. Look for one of Petke's late offensive substitutions to make an impact.
- Hoppenot to be second off the bench for the Union.
While doing some digging, a good friend (despite being a Union supporter, no accounting for taste, I guess) let me know of one absolute certainty. Antoine Hoppenot will be Philadelphia's second substitution. He'll probably score because life is stupid like that.
Here's what we don't know:
- Will RBNY figure out how to finish?
It's been beaten to death over the last few days, but the fact remains; the New York Red Bulls have a finishing problem. Lloyd Sam has been dynamite on the left side, roasting defenders and getting off crosses into the box all season long. Unfortunately, those crosses aren't being put away. How many times is this team going to ask Thierry Henry, who has never been very reliable with his head, to finish those crosses? If Tim Cahill is reinserted into this lineup, we may see some real production. Hopefully his return will also allow Peguy Luyindula to fall back into his most productive spot in the midfield, which will help to boost New York's attack through the middle.
- What is going on with Alexander?
Did anyone else see Eric Alexander being one of the biggest goats of early 2014 before the season started? We didn't either. Apparently Mike Petke still doesn't see what everyone else has been screaming about for the last few weeks. Alexander just isn't getting the job done. Time and time again, the former Portland Timbers man has been slotted into the CAM role and floundered. Even more frustrating is the fact that, regardless of how poorly Alexander has played, it seems like Jonny Steele has always been the first to be subbed. It's clear that he just isn't cutting it in the center of the pitch and the right side has been locked up by Lloyd Sam....so what is Alexander's position with this team? Maybe he needs to enjoy a spot on the bench for a few matches. Maybe he needs to be brought on as a late game sub for a tired Sam. Whatever ends up happening, we have all seen just how much he can contribute when playing in form. Sadly, Eric Alexander is miles away from in form right now and, as such, should be mile away from the starting lineup as well.
- Will this be a repeat of last season?
As you may recall, the Red Bulls notched their first win of 2013 against the Philadelphia Union at home. Could the two teams first meeting of 2014 offer a similar result? For the sake of the internet and #rbny, we sure hope so. This team is one more non win away from a full fledged internet supporter melt down and it will NOT be pretty.