July has been kind to the New York Red Bulls so far, with the team beating the New England Revolution in both league and cup competitions so far. New York now shifts its focus back to the league as they host a dangerous San Jose Earthquakes team.
The Quakes have been on a bit of a hot streak recently. They have won five of their last seven matches including a hard fought 3-2 win in the US Open Cup over rivals LA Galaxy. The team has also scored two or more goals in six of their last seven, meaning the Red Bulls will again need to tighten up their defense if they want to come away with all three points.
San Jose will be without three players, all who are on Gold Cup duty with their respective nations. Anibal Godoy (Panama), Marco Urena (Costa Rica) and Darwin Ceren (El Salvador) all have made it to the next round of the competition, so the Quakes will have to do without them for the time being.
One player they do have that will absolutely be a threat to Luis Robles and the Red Bulls is Chris Wondolowski. The 34 year old American continues to be a potent goal scorer, leading San Jose with eight goals and five assists on the season. He has scored four goals in the last three games, including a decisive brace against the Galaxy in the Open Cup.
Marking Wondolowski out of the game should be coach Jesse Marsch’s number one priority. The least the team should be focused on is limiting his chances, as Wondolowski only needs a fraction of space or time to punish the opposition. Despite not being the most technically gifted on the ball, his overall finishing ability makes him the biggest threat on the team.
The Red Bulls will unsurprisingly expect Bradley Wright-Phillips to continue his recent scoring success for the club. He scored in both matches against the Revs this month, including a late winner in the Open Cup. Being the type of striker that can miss eight chances but still bury a late goal makes him a threat from the first minute to the last.
Sadly, New York will still be without Kemar Lawrence, as “Taxi” and the Jamaican national team finished second in their group, advancing them to the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup. This means Marsch will need to continue his shuffling of the back line and hope for the best. The clean sheet they kept against the Revs showed promise in the players he fielded, so a similar dynamic could be on the cards.
Aurèlien Collin was supposedly fit to play against New England in the Open Cup but did not feature in the match. He could return against San Jose, but remains listed on the team’s injury report - albeit as “probable”. If Collin were to return, it should mean auxiliary central defender Connor Lade moves back to the left, with Sal Zizzo on the right and Damien Perrinelle partnering Collin in the middle.
With Alex Muyl continually struggling to make an offensive impact, it could be time for Marsch to give player like Derrick Etienne or even Gonzalo Verón a start. With new signings still in the works, starting a player like Verón could bring a much needed freshness to the starting eleven.
The Red Bulls have three matches to play in 11 days, starting with this match against San Jose. Fans will be hoping somewhere in those 11 days for at least one new signing to give them hope of a strong finish to the season. Winning this match would be a great start to their climb towards a playoff spot.
Their next two matches against bottom dwellers Minnesota United and struggling Montreal Impact could see the Red Bulls grab a vital six points on their way up the table. Seven points from their next three matches should be expected and very possible for New York. With the way they are playing, though, a win is a very strong possibility.