Heading into tonight's match against Real Salt Lake, the New York Red Bulls are hot on the heels of a debatably important win in a meaningless friendly against an English team that has nothing to do with Major League Soccer. What makes the win important isn't any points earned, but the confidence that the Red Bulls could conceivably take away from beating Arsenal, one of the top four teams in the Barclay's Premier League. It could be said that confidence is one of the things this New York team has been missing in 2014. So how will the boys in white deal with a short turnaround and an away match on the other side of the country?
Here's what we know:
After what seems like an entire season, the Red Bulls long time left back, Roy Miller is finally back from World Cup duty/injury time. It goes without saying that defense has been a sore subject when talking about the Red Bulls' 2014 season, and the reinsertion of Miller will go a long way in, not only bolstering a desperate back line, but also bringing an added bit of creativity in attack. Miller's signature move is (some might say recklessly) bombing down the left flank and providing an outlet with some timely overlapping runs. The return of Miller also adds a different, more surprising element to the offense: the option of putting in Ambroise Oyongo on the left wing....which brings us to:
The 23 year old Cameroonian rookie entered the season like a lamb and is currently playing like a....thing that is more impressive than a lamb. Now that Miller is back to fill in on the left side of the defense, it gives Mike Petke a chance to tinker a little on the left. Clearly, Eric Alexander has been hit or miss on the wing and will most likely have to fill in on the the right side for a suspended Lloyd Sam, anyway, so it's a great time to continue the Oyongo experiment. Having a boosted left side should go a long way in improving New York's chances in Salt Lake.
- The BWP/Henry connection.
The point has been beaten into the ground, but Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry have something very special going on. BWP is well on his way to breaking the all time MLS, single season goal scoring record and a lot of his success can be contributed to the stellar creative play from foward/creative midfielder, Henry. If the two of the can keep their relationship running as smoothly as it's been, and the defense gets its act together, New york should have a decent chance at taking some points home with them before their weekend match at home against New England.
Here's what we don't know:
- Where does Cahill fit in with this squad?
Tim Cahill was the clear choice for team MVP in 2013. In 2014? Not so much. The Australian international returned from Brazil after an incredibly impressive World Cup performance only to look lost and confused on the pitch for New York. Yes, he's being played out of position and his relationship with Dax McCarty in the midfield hasn't been good....but where do you move him? Do you put him on top and bench the red hot Wright-Phillips? No. Do you bench assist leader and team captain Henry? No. Do bench Dax and bring in Peguy Luyindula to play for a full ninety minutes? No....so what's the answer here? Where does Cahill fit on this team?
- Will we get a repeat of last year?
The last time New York and Real Salt Lake met, the two teams delivered what many called 2013's match of the year. High scoring? Check. Tim Cahill playing almost a full match after suffering a bad knee injury as the result of a horror tackle? Check. Multiple lead changes? Check. A last second game winner which resulted in Dax McCarty taking his shirt off and blinding anyone brave enough to look directly at his pale chest? Check. So will tonight be as exciting? Probably not, but one can hope.