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Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

The Red Bulls look to snap their 3 game losing streak against a strong Vancouver Whitecaps side.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

After losing their third game in a row to the Houston Dynamo, the New York Red Bulls thankfully had some time away from MLS to figure things out.

In the meantime, the Red Bulls had to play the Atlanta Silverbacks in the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament that has never been taken seriously by the franchise. The match presented the perfect opportunity for Marsch to deliver a statement of intent and he seized the moment. Fielding the strongest lineup possible (including Ronald Zubar, who hasn't played since the season opener), the Red Bulls went on to crush Atlanta, winning by a margin of 3-0.

While the win advances the Red Bulls to the Round of 16, it also gives them some momentum heading into what could be a pivotal match for the team. RBNY, at one point considered the best team in the league, has dropped as far as fifth in the Eastern Conference. A win could put them right into third, while leaving them a game in hand to distance themselves from their opponents.

The task won't be easy for New York, who might be missing Lloyd Sam thanks to an injury he picked up during the Open Cup match. Sam has started in every MLS match for New York and his absence could undermine the Red Bulls' efforts to get a win.

Further complicating things in a rather obvious way is Vancouver. The Whitecaps are enjoying the best season they've ever had in MLS during their short existence. Currently sitting in second place in a strong Western Conference, the Whitecaps have been pretty strong on the road. Carl Robinson's squad boasts a road record of 4-3-1, so the prospect of playing in Red Bull Arena doesn't faze them.

Before enjoying their own share of down time, the Whitecaps traveled to the StubHub Center where they beat the defending champions LA Galaxy, with a 1-0 win.

The Whitecaps are a strong counterattacking team. This could pose significant problems for the Red Bulls, as they have struggled with defending counterattacks, as their high pressure system often leaves the back exposed.

Who To Watch

RBNY: Bradley Wright-Phillips. If Lloyd Sam is going to miss out on Saturday's match, the burden of creativity will fall on the shoulders of BWP. He leads the team with 5 goals and 4 assists, but without Sam to help him, BWP is going to have to give something extra.

Vancouver: Octavio Rivero. The Uruguayan hitman has been on fire since joining the Whitecaps as a Young Designated Player. With a team-high of six goals, Rivero has been arguably the most important upgrade the Whitecaps made in the offseason.

Match Facts

- The Red Bulls have not beaten Vancouver in their last 5 encounters.

- The Red Bulls have just 1 win in their last 8 MLS matches.

- Ronald Zubar, who has missed out because of injury since Week 1, could make his return for the Red Bulls against Vancouver.