The New York Red Bulls are coming into this weekend on the back of one of their more disappointing losses this season. With all the signs pointing towards a Red Bull victory over a struggling Chicago Fire, New York went into Toyota Park and laid an egg in the middle of the field.
Their next match, however, allows no room for error. It's Rivalry Week and that means D.C. United, the leaders in the Eastern Conference, are coming to Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls are currently in 2nd place, right on the heels of their oldest rival. They have 39 points in 24 games played, while D.C. has 44 points in 27 games played. Needless to say, a win would go a long way towards catching D.C. It would leave the Red Bulls only 2 points behind with 3 games in hand. That's a pretty good position to be in.
With such a short amount of time between their match against Chicago and this match, Jesse Marsch might to be force make some changes to his starting lineup.
Damien Perrinelle will be rejoining the team after not flying to Chicago, but whether or not he starts over Ronald Zubar remains to be seen. Zubar has yet to develop the same level of chemistry that Perrinelle has with Matt Miazga, and based on the level of the match, Perrinelle should get the nod. This could also be the game where Sean Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron both get their first starts as Red Bulls. That would most likely mean that Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam would be rested.
As for D.C. United, both Bill Hamid and Fabian Espindola are listed as probable. While they will most likely play, the absence of Hamid could prove to be crucial. The reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year has been vital in getting D.C. to their lofty perch in the standings.
Players to Watch
Usually Mr. Reliable, Dax McCarty had what was arguably his worst game of the season against Chicago. Quiet games from both wingers in the loss points to a lack of distribution, and a lot of that had to with Dax and Felipe failing to serve as the fulcrum turning defense into attack. If the Red Bulls are to win on Sunday, they're going to need their captain to step up his game. Alvaro Saborio will be critical to D.C. winning the match. If the Costa Rican hitman will have more of the creative burden to bear, especially since Espindola (who leads the team with 5 assists) might miss the match.
The loss to Chicago proved that nothing in MLS is ever set in stone. Even though D.C. is coming into Sunday's match off of two straight losses, the Red Bulls didn't exactly look like world-beaters against Chicago. With both teams fighting to get back on track, it's going to be a tight, chippy game. Score: 1-1