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LINEUP PREDICTION: New York Red Bulls @ NYC FC

Or is it TWO predictions?

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls head to Yankee Stadium tonight for the second-ever meeting between RBNY and NYC FC. It seems MLS has forgotten what happened the first time around, trying to promote this game as some sort of starting point for whatever rivalry exists between the two teams. We here at Once a Metro remember that the Red Bulls are the sole leaders in the two-horse race for "best MLS team in New York", and Yankee Stadium's tenants are hoping to get back to level-pegging in that particular contest.

Anyway, before you turn ESPN on to see whether RBNY can turn around its recent lackluster form, sit back and take a look at this week's lineup prediction (Special thanks to OaM colleague Huan Nguyen for the creation of the following formation):

For tonight's match, I believe we will be seeing a similar lineup to the one presented Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake. I'm thinking there will be just two changes: Ronald Zubar and Chris Duvall.

In my opinion, Jesse Marsch and company give Chris Duvall his starting lineup position back over Connor Lade tonight. I believe we saw Lade start over Duvall against RSL simply to give Chris some rest. In just his second year as a pro, Duvall is the senior right back in the RBNY squad, and some management of his time is sensible. Connor Lade is a versatile players and it is always nice to see him starting with the first team. But given Chris Duvall's reliability and pace on the right side, he claims the starting position.

Ronald Zubar is the other forecast change, this time over U.S. U-20 star Matt Miazga. Ronald Zubar has had a tough season: coming out strong against Sporting KC opening weekend, suffering an injury that kept him out for a couple of months, returning and scoring a goal against the Atlanta Silverbacks in the U.S. Open Cup, and then dropping out of the starting lineup for RBNY's last game against RSL.

Zubar is supposed to be a senior center back for the long term for RBNY. Yet injuries can ruin player's careers in any sport, so it is vital he gets back onto the pitch, claims the starting position for the season, and goes into 2016 with plenty of minutes to his name. Jesse Marsch has indicated he expects to use this match to give Zubar another chance to nail down his place in the lineup.

That seems likely to mean a place on the bench for Matt Miazga. Miazga has shown a great amount of strength and presence in the backline for New York (as well as the USA U-20 men's national team), and I personally enjoy watching him play. In my opinion, he has been the most improved player for RBNY this season and I believe he deserves the starting spot. But he's been in the lineup largely because Zubar wasn't fit. Competition for places is good for the squad and good for Miazga's development. He'll be back in the team when it is clear Marsch cannot afford to leave him out if he wants RBNY to have its best shot at three points.

Looking at the rest of the back line, notice once again Damien Perrinelle who has been a gift to New York's defense all season. With Roy Miller in Orlando for the Costa Rica vs. Mexico game that occurred last night, next to Damien we see Kemar "Taxi" Lawrence. Taxi has been another pleasant surprise for RBNY and one of the top signings for the club this year. He is a powerful LB and can be seen making numerous overlapping runs on the left side of the pitch, crossing balls into the penalty area and becoming a bit of asset for the offense. Expect to see his name called again tonight.

Talk of Lloyd Sam rejoining the lineup tonight are also circulating the RBNY world this week. According to a very reliable source - Soccer by Ives reporter Franco Panizo - Sam is part of Marsch's plan for this match:

I'm playing it safe and saying we'll see Sam in the 18-man roster - yet not in the Starting XI tonight. He is easily one of the best footballers for RBNY and his injuries, though how minor they may appear, should be taken extremely seriously (as should all players for that matter). He is a player this club can not afford to lose and I would like to see him sit one more MLS game out, skip the USOC game against the Cosmos, and be fully recovered for July 4th's away game against the Columbus Crew.

You may notice one player's name out of my Starting XI today: Sacha Kljestan. After receiving a straight red against Vancouver two matches ago, Sacha was forced to sit against Real Salt Lake Wednesday at home. With that, New York decided to put the "Anatole Abang formation" into action late in the match against Vancouver, as well as to start against RSL. Personally, I really like it.

New York was down to ten men against the Whitecaps and though they didn't maintain much possession of the ball, they were able to score and had the better of the run of play for surprisingly large stretches of the game. The formation created many opportunities. Some unfortunate events brought about a loss - no big deal. The following game - against RSL - the Abang formation was truly put to the test, given a full 90 minutes to prove itself. Again without Sacha. Result: a win. (Many were unhappy about the "sloppy win" but three points is three points, so I'll take it).

So I don't think RBNY should start Sacha for this game. But he is important to Jesse Marsch and most likely will be somewhere in the eleven man lineup. Where? Do New York go back to a more usual formation, with BWP up top, Sacha right behind, with some combination of Grella, Zizzo and Sam on the wings? Or does Sacha remain on the bench, as I hope?

My preference is for Sacha to sit, but this not a lineup preference piece. Therefore for the first time, I am revising my lineup prediction MID-POST:

Do not get me wrong, Sean Davis is a great midfielder. Yet in such a high profile game, I believe New York will want to go with their biggest-name signing of 2015, Sacha Kljestan.

As for the rest of the lineup, I see Mike Grella playing on the right, instead of Lloyd Sam as explained above. Sal Zizzo will once again be on the bench in my opinion, with Bradley Wright-Phillips taking another shot at a new role playing underneath Anatole Abang. With two MLS goals in under 200 minutes of playing time as well as four goals in five games played for USL side NYRB II, Abang may just be the future of RBNY. A start tonight against NYC FC would be a great challenge for the 18-year-old, with an opportunity to prove himself in a big match.

If there was one player I could guarantee be in the lineup just by asking Jesse Marsch, it's Abang. Jesse, grant me one wish: I would like to see Anatole Abang play tonight in the Bronx.

So that does it for today's lineup prediction. As always, please leave your comments down below on who you believe will or should be in tonight's Starting XI!

You can watch the New York Red Bulls take on New York City FC tonight at 5:00 PM EST on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN5 for you Canadian viewers, as well as MLS LIVE.