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Preview: New York Red Bulls start July in New England

The Red Bulls kick off the second half of their season looking to profit from the struggles of a familiar foe.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The first fixture in July for the Red Bulls comes against a struggling New England team. The Revs suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Union on July 2nd, putting them just two points ahead of bottom-dwellers DC United in the East.

An early penalty set the tone for the match as Red Bulls menace, CJ Sapong, scored from the spot. Goals by Ilsinho and Roland Alberg in the second half were more than enough to sink the defensively inept Revolution side.

This should be a big positive for the Red Bulls heading into the match at Gillette Stadium on July 5th. The team has struggled offensively in 2017, yet to score more than two goals in a match this season. With Sacha Kljestan nowhere near his form from the previous year, the team is showing its true colors on the offensive front. A new face is needed in the team, but until that signing comes, Bradley Wright-Phillips will need to continue to carry the scoring load.

The Revs have been a very tough team to beat at home, losing just one home match to the red hot Chicago Fire. Five out of eight matches at home have resulted in wins for New England, so the Red Bulls will need to bring their best if they want to escape with all three points.

Limiting Lee Nguyen’s presence in the match should be one of the Red Bull’s main concerns. Nguyen leads the team in assists with five on the season and has the ability to unlock a defense at a moment’s notice. He will be looking to find out-of-form striker Kei Kamara, who would love to reignite his scoring record against the Red Bulls. Kamara is having a hard time finding the back of the net, tallying just four goals in 16 appearances this year.

For the Bulls, the likes of Daniel Royer and Kljestan need to be more involved in the match. Against NYCFC, it seemed like every ball played into Royer was made with his back against a defender. He needs to be able to get in behind the defense to set up BWP or get a shot away himself.

Kljestan, obviously enough, needs to be on the ball more. It seems that Marsch likes playing him deeper in the past few matches, but this limits his ability to pick a pass to the forwards. With several options - including Felipe, Tyler Adams, and Sean Davis - as defensive midfielders, Kljestan should be much further up the pitch where he can influence the game more offensively.

It may be time to give Derrick Etienne a shot in the starting XI as well. Alex Muyl has not had the impact the Red Bulls need him to, so bringing in the young Haitian winger could be the next logical choice. That is, unless Marsch actually wants to start Gonzalo Veron for once instead of bringing him on as a sub for 10 minutes.

Despite his obvious struggles to score, Veron still can be used to help this Red Bulls team. Their compact, quick passing often finds the team running into each other as they try to find a way out of the tight formation they run. Freeing up players like Veron to run in behind could be the key to breaking out of the mold of short, one-touch passes that have not lead to much in recent games. Speed is what teams feared about the Red Bulls for the past few seasons and it might be time to revisit that style of play.

The match against New England is the first of two between the Revs and Red Bulls in July, with the teams facing off again in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup on July 13th, again at Gillette Stadium. A draw would not be the worst result, as the Revs are a tough to beat at home. However, it seems almost vital that the team have a good outing and fight to get all three points.

Currently in 7th in the East, the Red Bulls will need to start stringing together positive results if they want to end up in a playoff spot come the end of the season. The month of July has the potential to spark the team back into form, and there will be no better way to start that charge than with a convincing performance against New England.