For the New York Red Bulls' Week 29 showdown with Portland Timbers, head coach Jesse Marsch named a much-changed lineup. The changes were in part out of necessity - Connor Lade and Dax McCarty have disciplinary suspensions to serve - and in part out of what we must assume is the coach's desire to attack the Timbers with fresh and fast legs.
STARTING XI vs @TimbersFC: Robles, Zizzo, Perrinelle, Miazga, Lawrence, S Wright-Phillips, Felipe, Davis, Kljestan, Veron, B Wright-Phillips— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) September 20, 2015
Gonzalo Veron and Shaun Wright-Phillips, the New York Red Bulls' highest-profile acquisitions of the summer transfer window, have each been handed their first starts of the season. Between them, prior to taking the field in Portland, they had collectively amassed 13 off-the-bench appearances, 225 minutes on the field, one goal and one assist for RBNY.
The decision to start Sal Zizzo at right back also prioritizes speed and attacking prowess over expertise in defending.
Despite the absence of regular starters Lloyd Sam, Mike Grella, Dax McCarty and Connor Lade - this is not a weakened lineup. Of the players available, it is arguably as strong as the more orthodox starting XI some predicted. Marsch has simply shuffled his deck and put out a team that should be at its best in the attacking third of the field. That could signal a busy day for Luis Robles, who will celebrate his 100th MLS regular season start for RBNY in this match.
With the game against Portland, Robles becomes just the 14th Red Bull or MetroStar of all time to start 100 league games for the club. Here is the list (from MetroFanatic.com's stats archive) of the 14 players who have started 100 regular season matches for RBNY (with Robles held on 99 out of deference to fate - let's not jinx his next 90 minutes by presuming it already played):
|Name||Games Played||Games Started||Minutes|
|Juan Pablo Angel||102||100||8806|
|Luis Robles (pre-kick off against Portland)||99||99||8910|
Most remarkably, the 100 MLS season starts of Luis Robles have been consecutive. He has played every minute of every one of RBNY's last 99 league games - dating back to his debut in September 2012 - and assuming he goes the full 90 against Portland, he'll make that an even 100 complete games in a row for the Red Bulls.
That is a club record for consecutive league starts. And it is the second-best run in league history: only Kevin Hartman (112) has started more MLS regular season games in a row.
Congrats. Luis! Hope this game isn't too busy for you.