The New York Red Bulls finally have a match again! After an extended seven day break, the club gets back into action against a Minnesota United team that is a lot more threatening than they were last season. Two wins out of three see the young club sitting tied for first with three other clubs in the west.
The two clubs met last season in a match that saw the Red Bulls dominate, ultimately winning 3-0. The biggest problem with Minnesota last season was the amount of goals they gave up, and signs are not pointing in the right direction for the club this year. Five goals allowed in their first three games is nothing to be too proud of, and it is not getting any easier for the young club.
Minnesota is a team that has been ravaged by injury already this season, and the international break has thinned their roster out even more. One big miss will be midfielder Rasmus Schüller, who will be away with Finland on international duty. The holding midfielder has paired perfectly with Ibson this season, dictating play and creating chances for his team.
The club will also be without Kevin Molino, who will remain sidelined until the end of the season. This was a huge blow for Minnesota, who lost one of their most potent players. Ethan Finlay answered the call, however, and has stepped up in a big way for the Loons recently. His brace against Orlando two weeks ago was followed up by an assist against Chicago in the clubs 2-1 win. His wing play has been fantastic to watch, giving the Red Bulls quite the matchup on the left side of their defense.
This would not be such a worrying prospect if it was not for the Red Bulls also having a few key players out on international duty. Kemar Lawrence, Fidel Escobar and Michael Murillo will all be with their respective nations, thinning out the defense considerably. With youngster Tyler Adams also away after being called up to the USMNT again, head coach Jesse Marsch will have some juggling to do with his backline.
A tough 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake last week will only give the club something to build on heading into the Minnesota match. With Aurelien Collin or Aaron Long slotting in for Escobar, New York could see a very similar defensive lineup to the one that had little to do against a stagnant Salt Lake attack.
The game was frustrating to watch, as the Salt Lake team morphed into a Jose Mourinho-esc side, parking the bus after their early penalty conversion. Multiple attempts to penetrate the defense were unsuccessful as the Red Bulls failed to escape with any points. There will certainly be changes up top, with Marsch able to use his prefered forwards against Minnesota.
The attack will be much more potent, as Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer will see their first starts of the MLS season. Sean Davis and Kaku should round out the attack as well, making for a much stronger, and certainly more attacking lineup than the one that was put out against Real Salt Lake.
The Red Bulls need to limit their mistakes early in the game and not give away needless fouls like they did in Utah. The midfield will be the most important area of the pitch, as Minnesota United will look to get balls out wide to Finlay to create chances. Cutting out these passes will greatly limited the Loons attack, making it much easier for the Red Bulls defense.
Minnesota is still leaky at the back, so the Red Bulls cannot be discouraged if an attack breaks down. Hitting United on the counter whenever possible will ultimately create the most chances. Wright-Phillips will have a field day if they can press the Minnesota defense and put them on their heels early on.