It was pointed out in the build-up to this match that the New York Red Bulls are just three points away from being one point away from their points total at this time last season - and last season ended pretty well for RBNY, so things are clearly not so bad, right?
With a win at NYCFC, RBNY would be just 1 point off its pace from 2015 through 13 games. #RBNY had 17 points through 13 games (4-4-5)— Jason Baum (@JasonBaumPR) May 20, 2016
Maybe. This time last year (which is to say, 12 games into the season), RBNY was in the midst of a four-game losing streak that took the shine off a very strong start to the season. So this year's edition has another couple of matches to catch up with last year's team's lowest ebb.
But this is a lineup preview.
The Red Bulls head to Yankee Stadium to play an opponent - NYCFC - that has exactly the same number of points the 2015 RBNY side had accumulated after its first 12 games of last season: 17. That puts the blue team among the current pace-setters in the Eastern Conference. Will that and the fact the Red Bulls have just one point from six road games in 2016 make a difference to Jesse Marsch's game plan?
The RBNY head coach unveiled an unexpected lineup against Chicago. This next game will demonstrate whether that was a mid-week roll of the dice to protect fragile starters from missing out on the big match in the Bronx, or whether Marsch has cast aside all favorites and is now picking his team entirely on the merits of the game ahead and the week's performances in training.
This column's suspicion is Marsch is neither entirely picking players on form over reputation, nor entirely ignoring the claims of less established members of the squad who have performed well. Connor Lade was a surprise starter against the Fire, but if he is fit then he did more than enough to justify another run out. Chris Duvall still isn't an entirely convincing center back, but he also has the distinction of being one of the starting CBs in both RBNY's clean sheets to date this season.
The guess here is that Lade will keep his place, but Duvall will be sent back to the bench.
Up front, Lloyd Sam was welcomed back to the starting lineup for the Chicago game. In return, he set up Mike Grella's game-winning goal. But OaM's guess is Sam sits again: the narrow Yankee Stadium field seems a perfect opportunity for Marsch to have another go at integrating Gonzalo Veron into the starting lineup and seeing if the 4-2-2-2 can finally achieve its full potential for RBNY.