The bad news is that the Red Bulls are coming off a fairly embarrassing road loss in which they looked almost nothing like the team they can and need to be. The slightly worse news is that because of the international break they'll be heading into their game against Real Salt Lake without their star playmaker Sacha Kljestan (USMNT) and two important depth players, Derrick Etienne Jr (Haiti) and Michael Amir Murillo (Panama).
Fortunately for the team, their showdown in Harrison will be against a team that is coming off a frustrating week of their own. Real Salt Lake will already be without veteran superstars Nick Rimando (USMNT) and Kyle Beckerman (match ban), along with attacking midfielder Albert Rusnak (Slovakia) and several other injured players. And of course the cherry on top is that earler this week they fired head coach Jeff Cassar after a 0-2-1 start.
Not to disparage RSL, a team that surely has enough talent to keep itself afloat while they get their house in order, but right now they are as vulnerable a team as the Red Bulls will likely play all year - especially at Red Bull Arena.
With or without Kljestan and Etienne, the Red Bulls have no excuse not to look like the high-octane attacking unit that Jesse Marsch has been training them to be in the 4-2-2-2.
Here is the RBNY predicted XI vs Real Salt Lake:
GK Luis Robles
LB Kemar Lawrence - Assuming of course that his personal issues have been resolved, we should expect Lawrence back in the starting XI on Saturday.
CB Aurelien Collin - After that weak performance by Perrinelle against Seattle, it would be odd if Marsch doesn't put Collin back in the rotation.
CB Aaron Long
RB Sal Zizzo
DM Sean Davis
DM Felipe - Ordinarily it would be Felipe replacing Kljestan as the No. 10, but in the 4-2-2-2 the team needs a true winger much more.
AM Daniel Royer
AM Mike Grella - Marsch has called Grella a calming presence at midfield, so it would seem logical that he would turn to his trustworthy attacker in the absence of Kljestan.
FW Fredrik Gulbrandsen - Though he played below expectations against Seattle, Gulbrandsen's demonstrated knowledge as a forward in the system will make him useful while Muyl, Etienne and Grella continue to learn it.
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
Bench: Ryan Meara, Connor Lade, Damien Perrinelle, Tyler Adams, Dan Metzger, Alex Muyl
Bonus - NYRBII predicted XI v Pittsburgh (4-2-2-2): Diaz; Schmoll, O'Toole, Kutler, Abidor; Najem, Valot; Lewis, Bonomo; Bezecourt, Flemmings
Kljestan's absence all but guarantees that Jesse Marsch is going to need to tinker with his lineup yet again - which may prove to be a good thing as Kljestan has not been at his best in the current system. His absence should also prove to be a good test of this team's depth.
What do you think?