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San Jose Earthquakes vs. New York Red Bulls - Lineup Prediction

Another match, another lineup for the New York Red Bulls.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This Friday, the New York Red Bulls are home at the arena to play against the San Jose Earthquakes (3-3) at 7:00 PM. San Jose have played fairly well these past couple of matches, in week two even taking down the Seattle Sounders. But how will the RBNY line up look come Friday night? Let's take a look:

In last week's prediction I asked you all whether or not my lineup prediction looked familiar to you or not, do I dare ask it again? Against DC, I was a player off in my prediction. I knew as soon as I hit the "submit post" button that would happen. I knew the Mike Grella/Sal Zizzo situation would haunt me. I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep that night. Well as feared (for my own sake), Mike Grella suited up to start the match against DC, docking my non-existent pay one minute at a time. Looking onto this week's match, I have changed one player as well as the appearance of the lineup from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-2-3-1(2) as Felipe and Dax have been playing more compact in the defensive midfield. But that still leaves us with the question at hand, why do I not have Grella starting this week?

Taking a look at the numbers from when Sal Zizzo started against DC on March 22nd to when Mike Grella started against DC on April 11th, there may be some hints as to who is to start. But before we do so, I would just like to add that watching both matches, I felt Zizzo had more time on the ball opposed to Grella as well as pushed towards goal more times than the Long Island native. As promised, let's dive into some numbers:

Pictured above are the amount of shots, whether on target (green arrow), off target (red arrow), or blocked (red dash), taken by Sal Zizzo on the 22nd of March. Now, I would post a picture of Mike Grella's shot map from his start against DCU last week, but he did not have any. To be fair though, this can be correlated to the time allowed play in each start against DC. Mike Grella played for 45 minutes on April 11th where as Sal Zizzo was given an extra twenty, playing 65 minutes against DC on March 22nd. Does three more shots in an extra twenty minutes of play seem responsible?

But of course, we can not base a future start off of shots alone from one game from each player. Because to be fair, Mike Grella has scored more goals for the Bulls than Sal Zizzo has. Yet, if we use these starts from each player against the same team, we are able to get a slight idea of who is more fit for the position in the starting 11.

Another reason I predict Zizzo to start over Grella, is his free kick/corner kick abilities. Against DC, he was sent to the corner flag four times. With Zizzo in at left attacking mid, he is able to assume this role. This leaves RBNY with some options now as they also have Felipe Martins (8 corner kicks on April 11th) who has been taking these roles when Zizzo is on the bench.

As said above, strictly from watching the game, without even looking at statistics, I see Sal Zizzo as your starter and Mike Grella as a late sub. Mike Grella can assume the role as did Peguy Luyindula of late goal scorer. (Where are you Peguy?) *sniff sniff* Is it that he has such a high work rate or is it that Jesse Marsch will not allow him to play a full 90', that Mike Grella so far has not secured his spot on the starting eleven. This question can only be answered as the season continues and the starting lineup begins to look more and more familiar.

Back to stats, here are the amount of distributions with #15 of course being Zizzo and #13 being Grella.

Taking a look at this, notice how many more balls are played into the 18' from Sal Zizzo? And this is not just from corners either, as Zizzo had two compared to Grella's 0 "key passes" throughout the match. In terms of ball possession as well as offsides, Zizzo and Grella are tied. In terms of defense, Grella has gotten back and made more tackles than Zizzo.

To wrap up the question of why I think Sal will start over Mike though, I am basing it half off of stats from each player's match as well as my personal experience watching them play. During preseason, I was (and still am) one of Mike Grella's biggest supporters, but watching Zizzo play, I currently would like to see him start against San Jose as well believe he will. Like anyone, I could easily be wrong on this as we will find out Friday when RBNY tweet out the starting eleven. Until then, let me know in the comments below who you think will be on the pitch at kickoff.

Looking at the rest of the roster, I once again see Kemar Lawrence stepping in for Roy Miller. Why?

Though Roy Miller and Ronald Zubar are both back in training as of Tuesday, April 14th, I still can not see either starting. For Roy Miller, going from the status of doubtful to starting in just a week would be quite a leap (but who knows with New York, as they signed Anthony Wallace the day before starting him). So no, I do not see Miller in the starting eleven giving Kemar Lawrence yet another chance to prove himself. With his only competition being Connor Lade and Anthony Wallace, I can basically guarantee you his name at LB for April 17th. This is because we haven't seen Connor Lade start a match for the Bulls since 2014 and Anthony Wallace is now playing for USL side NYRB II. If his name isn't in the starting eleven and Miller's is, I may have to give up these lineup predictions.

Lastly, the only other player left in question is the "Olave-esk" Ronald Zubar who we haven't seen much of. He is one player I was excited to see starting at center back, but his name is up in the air as of right now.

According to mlssoccer.com:

"We’re hopeful that they’re available for Friday," Marsch said. "We’ll see. Today was a big step in the right direction, and we thought it would be. We’re on pace for them being available. Hopefully there will be a decision on whether to use them from the start or use them off the bench."

So with this, I am going to take a gamble this week and start him over Matt Miazga. Miazga is my most improved Red Bull this year and he is starting to make a name for himself at the age of just 19. But, if Jesse Marsch thinks Zubar is "on pace for them being available" as well as a week ago him having a "questionable" rather than "doubtful" status, then his name is in my starting eleven.

To wrap things up, you can catch the San Jose Earthquakes at the New York Red Bulls on Friday, April 17th on MLS Live, UniMas (with Spanish/English Commentary, as well as on the free UniMas Deportes app (with Spanish/English Commentary) at 7:00 PM EST.

Oh, and I think Kemar Lawrence's twitter may have been compromised:

Let me know who's in your starting eleven in the comments below. Cheers!