The first leg of the MLS Cup Eastern Conference Semi-Finals went about as poorly as any Red Bulls or Metrostars fan could expect: allowing a goal in the second half and being gassed by the final 15. Many of the team's stars that had helped the Red Bulls reach their second straight No. 1 seed - Kljestan, BWP, McCarty just to name the most disappointing performers - had some of the worst performances since the 1-6 start.
The Red Bulls have two tasks they must complete in order to avoid elimination: Preserve the clean sheet, and score 2 goals. Fortunately for the Red Bulls, they return to a Red Bull Arena where they set a new club record for wins within its walls. In both of the prior MLS regular season meetings at RBA, the Red Bulls scored enough to either advance (the 3-1 win) or force extra time (the 1-0 win).
Unfortunately, the Red Bulls got bit fairly hard by the injury bug this past week. Kemar Lawrence got banged up at the end of the game in Montreal, Ronald Zubar is still making only slow progress on his recovery, and late this past week it was revealed that even Mike Grella was now being rested.
Assuming the players mentioned are not fit to start on Sunday, we could very well see significant changes to the lineup and maybe even the starting formation. Gonzalo Veron in particular has been hinted at as a possible starter in the crucial 2nd leg at RBA.
We should certainly expect the 4-2-3-1 formation to remain intact as opposed to trying out the 4-2-2-2 again, but the wingers might be a real surprise for this one.
As for the Impact, their have been a lot of rumors about various injuries being picked up throughout the week, but even if Drogba and Mancosu aren't fit to start, the Impact are still dangerous. The defense led by Laurent Ciman erased Kljestan, and the attacking unit still has Ignacio Piatti and his incredible goal scoring prowess. The Red Bulls have their work cut out for them even with the home crowd cheering.
GK Luis Robles
DF Sal Zizzo - With Kemar Lawrence ailing, Jesse Marsch may be forced to bench his star LB for the match.
DF Aurelien Collin
DF Damien Perrinelle - Not entirely convinced that Ronald Zubar is at full fitness, and DP has been solid regardless.
DF Chris Duvall
MF Dax McCarty
MF Daniel Royer - Mike Grella's injury (small though it might be) combined with his recent underwhelming form should be enough to justify Marsch giving the LW role back to Royer.
MF Sacha Kljestan
MF Gonzalo Veron - After Alex Muyl's very disappointing performance against Montreal (arguably one of his worst in several months), and Jesse Marsch's recent comments, it feels like now is the time for him to retake his spot on the starting XI.
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
What do you think?