With the start of a new season, it's time to bring back our 3 Questions feature. For those new to Once a Metro, before every New York Red Bulls match, we exchange three questions with another SB Nation blog to see what we're up against. This week's opponent is Sporting Kansas City, so I talked to Ben Gartland of The Blue Testament (TBT) to get insight on the newest team in the West.
OaM: Will SKC's high pressure system be as potent as it was in past years?
TBT: I think so. First of all, having Dom Dwyer as the centerpiece of the attack is a major bonus. Graham Zusi is on the wing that adding good pace down the sideline and the midfield that Sporting KC has was built with keeping a high-pressured system in mind. Getting Roger Espinoza back playing as a holding or defensive midfielder behind Benny Feilhaber and next to Paulo Nagamura, who both have experience in Sporting KC's system, makes me feel like the system will stay the same. A lot of it will depend on the fullbacks. If Chance Myers returns, will he return to form? Who is going to be starting on the left, Seth Sinovic or Marcel de Jong? If de Jong starts, can be be an asset in the attack? These are all questions that will really determine whether the high-pressured system is working this season.
OaM: Who will score goals if the defense is focusing on Dom Dwyer?
TBT: That was one of the issues last year but I think a healthy and rested attack can help solve that issue. The next two likely candidates are the wingers, Graham Zusi and Bernardo Anor. Anor played well in preseason and Zusi is always decent so if they're sending in the service towards Dwyer, they can also take advantage of open spaces when he's covered. Benny Feilhaber is also someone who, since he is playing behind Dwyer and advancing the ball, can take the shots himself if open. Now, Dwyer should still be the scoring the lion's share of the goals but he has proficient scorers around him to add to the attack.
OaM: Given the move to the West to make room for OCSC and NYC FC, how does the fan base feel about 2015?
TBT: There's been mixed reactions. On one hand, this has been the longest offseason Sporting has had since before the rebrand so fans are a little antsy to get the season started and the new players (Marin, Mustivar, Espinoza, Anor and Nemeth) have fans excited about the roster overhaul. On that same note, there is a certain wariness considering some of these new players are untested and we haven't seen them in regular season play yet. Mustivar, who is Sporting KC's new defensive midfielder, didn't play with the team in preseason so his role is unknown. Losing Aurelien Collin and upgrading Ike Opara to starting center back has fans concerned since Opara hasn't been more than a spot starter in the past and there's still a bit of a hole at right back until Chance Myers is fully fit.
As for moving to the West, the competition is likely going to be stiff but I think people are excited. Sporting KC's games with Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC are usually tightly contested and Houston moving West with Sporting KC brings over that young rivalry that's been brewing over the past few years. I think, above all, fans are excited to see the season start and to see some of these questions answered.
SKC Lineup: Luis Marin; Jalil Anibaba, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Bernando Anor; Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Match Prediction: SKC 2-1 RBNY
Here's how I responded to his questions.
TBT: With new head coach Jesse Marsch, will there be any different forms of tactics or lineups than we could have expected with Petke?
OaM: It's hard to tell how things will change. During preseason, because of roster turnover, a lot of player roles aren't clear. The Red Bulls are only returning 4 regular starters from last year's squad. It seems that initially Marsch will stick with Petke's (really Robin Fraser's) 4-2-3-1 formation. The absence of Henry though will complicate things (see question 2). I imagine we'll see some flux early on, especially as Marsch feels out this roster, which does include players he is familiar with in Felipe Martin and Karl Ouimette.
TBT: How will the attack change without Thierry Henry in 2015?
OaM: There's a big misunderstanding that Bradley Wright-Phillips scored 27 goals because of Henry. BWP has had 20 goals seasons back in England, so his production, while a little high, isn't unusual for him. Henry leaving was always going to change the offense since he was a focal point. It's unclear how exactly the offense will operate, but the bigger issue is going to be the defense. Combine Henry with the loss of Eric Alexander (traded to Montreal), and there's a big hole on the left side. Roy Miller will be used to get forward, which will leave a nice hole to counter through since Sacha Kljestan will get into the attack at times as well.
TBT: The Red Bulls' defense haven't exactly been world beaters this preseason, is this the greatest point of worry going into 2015?
OaM: Defense is just one worry for the Red Bulls among many. They currently have 3 forwards (Peguy Luyindula has morphed into a CAM), one of which (Anatole Abang) was just signed from Rainbow FC, which apparently doesn't know how transfers work (Oyongo). 11 midfielders and we don't know where most of them will play. 10 defenders (which include a wayward Armando), but seemingly a lack of proven depth at Center Back. This team is in a huge state of flux and there's not a lot of solid ground for the Red Bulls at the moment. Honestly, we'll be lucky if the same Starting XI plays in weeks 1 & 3 (Red Bulls have week 2 off).
RBNY Lineup: I'm not 100% sure what it'll be, but I'll point you to our Starting XI Preview piece so you can see how a few of us feel.
Prediction: SKC 1-1 RBNY