Tired. Injured. Frustrated. Defeated. These are just some of the words we can use to describe the New York Red Bulls as the 2017 MLS campaign kicks off.
A bitter loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday night left the team wringing their hands and nursing their hamstrings. With barely two days to prepare for the start of the 2017 MLS season, things do not appear to be breaking in the Red Bulls' favor.
Gonzalo Veron is hurt, Sacha Kljestan is ineffective, Bradley Wright-Phillips is lost in Jesse Marsch's 4-2-2-2 formation, and the defense looks exactly the same as the one that gave up 2+ goals in six of the first seven games last season.
Atlanta United fans are likely licking their chops in anticipation of this one.
The expansion team has done just about everything one would expect from a well-established club, let alone a brand new one. Naming former Barcelona and Argentina manager Tata Martino as their head coach, nabbing several big name transfer targets like Miguel Almiron, Greg Garza and (in a few months) Brad Guzan as well as plenty of impressive talents on all sides of the ball.
The Red Bulls have their work cut out for them as they try to prove that they can handle the younger, faster generation of MLS players and Sunday night will be very telling as to what kind of team they have.
Here is the RBNY predicted XI against Atlanta United:
GK Luis Robles
LB Kemar Lawrence
CB Aurelien Collin
CB Aaron Long - After holding his own against Vancouver, Aaron Long will make his MLS debut.
RB Murillo - With Sal Zizzo struggling, Jesse Marsch finally holds him accountable and replaces him with Murillo.
DM Sean Davis
AM Daniel Royer
AM Sacha Kljestan
FW Alex Muyl - The fact that Jesse Marsch put Muyl in the lineup before Mike Grella in the last game against Vancouver hints that he is the healthier of the two. With Veron ailing, someone has to start alongside BWP - and though Derrick Etienne has been first off the bench to spell Veron for a few weeks now, it's is also the case that Grella and Muyl haven't been fit during that time. This pick makes the assumption that Marsch hasn't settled on Etienne as Veron's primary back-up just yet, and will seek out one of his traditional favorites for the start now that injury and fitness concerns are subsiding.
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
This season has started poorly to say the least, but so did last season. Regardless of how the game in Atlanta ends, the Red Bulls season will not be over on Sunday night - no matter how "Metro" the team plays.
What do you think?