The New York Red Bulls, coming off of their first win in 2014, get to take on a Houston team that played to a dull 0-0 with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. This will be New York's ninth meeting with Houston since the beginning of the 2012 season. Let's see how the Red Bulls stack up against a familiar foe.
Here's what we know:
Regular Season Dominance
Since the beginning of 2012, when MLS went back to an unbalanced schedule, the Red Bulls and Dynamo have met a total of eight times, six in the regular season, twice in the playoffs. In their six regular season match-ups, the Red Bulls hold a record of 5-0-1 (15 pts) over Houston with the only loss coming at Houston in August 2012. In those matches, the Red Bulls have outscored Houston 12 to 4, with their biggest victories being a 4-1 win and 3-0 win at Houston in September & October of last year. Given how NY has played against Houston recently, and that it isn't the playoffs, NY have the odds in their favor.
Poor Houston Form
Not only does NY come into this game with recent regular season dominance over Houston, but Houston comes in with recent poor form. The Dynamo started the year off with two consecutive wins, but have followed that up by going 0-1-3 in their last four. Their last four results are a 2-1 loss at Vancouver, a 4-1 loss at home to Dallas, a 2-0 loss at New England, and a 0-0 draw at Philadelphia. NY is lucking out as Houston's poor form should help make this game more of an even affair since NY will be missing players due to...
Injuries & Suspensions
Yesterday, it was confirmed that Tim Cahill would be out with a lingering injury that flared up this week. The Red Bulls will also be without defender Ibrahim Sekagya due to a dubious red card he picked up against Philadelphia. However, Dan Dickinson is reporting that it looks like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Andre Akpan will also be missing from the team lineup today, meaning the Red Bulls will not go into this game with a forward available on the bench. On top of that, while Armando appeared for the team against Philly last week, there's no guarantee of his fitness as he is coming back from an injury himself.
NY isn't the only team dealing with injuries and suspensions. Houston's Brad Davis picked up an ankle sprain a few weeks ago. He's been listed as questionable the past two games, but has not made an appearance. Given that Houston has a match at home with Portland on Saturday, I would imagine Davis sees some more rest. Additionally, Houston defensive mainstay Kofi Sarkodie was shown a second yellow against Philadelphia for time wasting, and will miss this match.
Here's what we don't know:
Red Bull slow starts
The Red Bulls have a trend of starting slow in games this year. As an example, they conceded the majority of possession to the Union in the first 15 minutes of last week's game. This trend generally has the effect of the Red Bulls having to force the issue late in the game. Can the Red Bulls break the streak and finally get out in front of an opponent?
Midweek games are always tough for fans of the Red Bulls to make, and usually that means thin crowds, despite the highly reported attendances. Last week was hurt by the holiday of Passover. This week's game was originally scheduled for the summer but was moved for the Arsenal friendly. How will having a second straight midweek game affect the crowd and the team on the field/
Referee Jair Marrufo
Last week was a crazy week with several red cards being handed out in various matches. Marrufo wasn't involved with any of the games from this past weekend, but that doesn't mean he hasn't be involved in any controversy recently. In March, when the Chicago Fire visited D.C. United, Marrufo was seen bumping into Mike Magee after whistling for a foul. Unsurprisingly, no action seems to have been taken (or at least made public). While something like this won't happen very often, if Marrufo can (seem to) do this to a player, can he really be trusted?