The New York Red Bulls have already flown to Canada to get ready for a big meeting with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The game seems equally likely to help or hinder RBNY. Slumping Vancouver is prime candidate for the Red Bulls' next three-point boost to their current unbeaten run. But there is also the uncomfortable truth that RBNY has never beaten the 'Caps. In six meetings, the Red Bulls have three draws and three losses to the Whitecaps.
If it is to be seventh-time lucky for RBNY, it will have to be done without Kemar Lawrence and Sacha Kljestan. Both are on international duty with their respective national teams. And let this be the opportunity to applaud Sacha's remarkable return to USMNT: a goal, two assists, and Christmas card from Christian Pulisic for the rest of his days. Imagine what he can do with more than 24 minutes on the field, Mr. Klinsmann.
Back to the Red Bulls who are available to play in MLS this weekend.
Though RBNY hasn't had much success against the 'Caps, the club has turned losing to Vancouver into a lucky charm.
The first three meetings between these teams were draws. For the Red Bulls, they were draws in seasons that were merely OK: 2011 and 2012. But in 2013, RBNY lost to Vancouver for the first time (at home, no less), and won the Supporters' Shield for the first time. In 2014, the season started with a loss to the 'Caps and finished with an Eastern Conference final appearance. And in 2015, another home loss to Vancouver arrived in a year that ended with a trophy.
Jesse Marsch is not, of course, thinking about things are nothing more than fortuitous coincidence. Vancouver may be in poor form and missing several players to international duty, but the RBNY head coach cannot afford to pay that any mind. "The Whitecaps are organized when they are on defense especially when they press during the counter, when they win ball they are dangerous on the counter and we have to be smart about the passing choices we make on the field. We can't allow them to get easy chances if we give up the ball," said Marsch.
A big positive for Jesse is the return of Dax McCarty & Damien Perrinelle as both are well ahead of schedule. "Damien and Dax are ready to go and that means the group is almost complete."
Luis Robles suffered a knee injury late in the last match at Red Bull Arena against the New England Revolution. He hasn't trained for the week, nursing the left knee, but he feels he is ready to go for this big match up. "At the end of the last game there was a collision, that left me lame. But thankfully [I've had] five or six days to rest up and heal."
But with the loss of Lawrence and Kljestan is Robles worried about production or creativity being lost for the club? "The best thing about this year's team is that we have depth and guys who have personality and we can neutralize the opposition as long as we can get results. It's a great thing for us." said Robles, "But it's next man up, whether it's Felipe, or Damari they will be ready to go and I trust them."
The Red Bulls know what is at stake and what they need to do to continue to fight for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. And they also know they will be cheered on from afar by their international-duty exiles.