We continue our preview of New York Red Bulls v D.C. United by talking to Ben Bromley, one of the Managing Editors at Black & Red United (BRU). First, we start with our 3 questions for Ben.
OaM: Who is the most significant new face on the team we should be looking out for?
BRU: The most significant new face for D.C. United is Jairo Arrieta, but I talk more about him in the next question. The team mostly stayed pat this offseason, and their biggest signing, Markus Halsti, is currently injured. But two players who have been more important than I expected so far this season have been first-round draft pick Miguel Aguilar and returning MLS player Michael Farfan. Aguilar scored a great goal in his first preseason appearance, and ever since has forced Ben Olsen to keep him in the 18. Farfan is a utility knife of a player who can play across the midfield, and gives United the flexibility that Lewis Neal provided them, but in a more athletic and more attacking player. I expect both to see the field Sunday.
OaM: No Fabian Espindola, no Eddie Johnson. Who is carrying the load up top, and how comfortable are you feeling about them?
BRU: Jairo Arrieta, acquired for an international roster spot from Orlando City, is the player who has taken the lead striker role in the absence of Fabian Espindola. He scored against Alajuelense in the Concacaf Champions League, and scored the goal against Montreal Impact to give United the 1-0 win. He had a breakout season in Columbus his first year in the league, and his subsequent two seasons were not as bad as people make them out to be. He has sometime to prove, and he is nominally fourth on the depth chart, so he will be looking to stake a claim to a starting spot for the foreseeable future. Beside him is Chris Pontius, who you might remember from such games as his hat trick in the rain in 2012. Look also for Chris Rolfe to be deeply involved in the attack.
OaM: Have we seen the best of Nick De Leon in MLS yet?
BRU: Nick DeLeon is an interesting case. In his first season, he was allowed to play up and down the wing in a very attacking role, and it showed in his statistics. In 2013, everyone sucked, so there's not much you can really take from that (though he did score in the US Open Cup run that sparked United's revival). In 2014, however, he was asked by Ben Olsen to play a completely different role than he had before. Appearing opposite of Chris Rolfe, who was always in the attack, DeLeon was asked to pinch inside and function as an auxiliary central midfielder at times, preventing the two man midfield of Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud from being overrun. It was a much less flashy role, though just as important as what he did in 2012, so some people thought that he wasn't playing as well. Being that it was his first season in that role, I think that he can still perform that while integrating some of the attacking flair that made him such a delight in 2012. There have already been flashes of that this season, and I think it will continue to grow.
D.C. Starting XI: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Rolfe; Chris Pontius, Jairo Arrieta
Prediction: RBNY 1-1 DC. Neither team looked gangbusters their first week.
Now, for Ben's questions for me.
BRU: Can Bradley Wright-Phillips be as effective this season without Thierry Henry there beside him?
OaM: Absolutely. In fact, he scored last year without the help on Henry on many occasions. Theirry Henry's presence being the reason BWP got 27 goals last year is a load of crap. Granted, Henry was involved in some of his goals, but he doesn't need Henry. The biggest thing to BWP's success is him being used correctly. Against SKC, he was used as a hold-up striker, but he's a target striker. If someone starts feeding him balls in a position where he can do his thing, he'll succeed.
BRU: What kind of system has Jesse Marsch installed, and how does it differ from Mike Petke?
OaM: Formation wise, Marsch seems to be playing the same 4-2-3-1 formation as Petke employed at the end of last year, but the general attitude is a little different. When Petke first started, he talked about playing a posession based game but quickly fell back into the MLS mold of defend and counter s he didn't have the pieces. Marsch seems intent on playing an uptempo "energy drink" style. Against Sporting Kansas City, the Red Bulls controlled 58% of possession, an impressive number for a road team, especially in the first match of the year, and most of that was to a slight high pressure system. The back line wasn't playing in the opponents half, but the team was quick on counters and pressed to get the ball back if it was lost. Petke's teams weren't that quick to fight for a lost ball, which is the biggest difference after 1 game.
BRU: How has Sacha Kljestan integrated into this team so far?
OaM:Kljestan had moments against Sporting KC, but was mostly quiet for that match. I think Marsch is still trying to feel him out in this team. He's no longer a CDM and we have CAMs in Peguy Luyindula (maybe, he might be leaving) and Felipe Martins (who wore Peguy's number in Week 1). Dax worked best last year when paired with someone, but that was with Eric Alexander, who played with RBNY for 2 years. Kljestan will be in flux for a few weeks as the Red Bulls get some competitive games under them.
RBNY Starting XI:Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, Chris Duvall; Felipe Martin, Dax McCarty; Sal Zizzo, Sacha Kljestan, Lloyd Sam; Bradley Wright-Phillips
Prediction: RBNY 2-1 DC. First home game bump and bye week helps the Red Bulls.