The New York Red Bulls will face their former captain Sacha Kljestan for the first time this season as the club heads to Florida to take on a struggling Orlando City side. Coming off a 3-0 victory over Minnesota United, the Red Bulls will be riding high as they look towards the CONCACAF Champions League match on Wednesday against Guadalajara.
Jesse Marsch has been heavily focused on the Champions League this season, prioritizing it over league matches every time. This means that the game against Orlando will be most of the starters that have already seen the field during the MLS season for the Red Bulls. Kyle Duncan should continue his reign at right fullback with the likes of Vincent Bezecourt and Benjamin Mines joining the XI again.
Carlos Rivas will start against his former club, with the Colombian already netting twice this season. He has not been able to recreate the same form he had in his first match of the season against the Portland Timbers, but a return to Orlando could reignite him.
If Kaku is not at full fitness, Marsch could end up resting him for the Guadalajara match later in the week. Kaku did not suit up against Minnesota due to a quad injury, but it seemed to be more of a precautionary measure from the Red Bulls. Forcing a start against an impotent Orlando side will not be in Marsch’s plans, so expect Kaku to sit for another game.
The problem with Orlando this season has been their inability to score goals. Plain and simple, they only have two goals in their first three matches, losing two and drawing one. Their recent loss to that blue team that plays in a baseball stadium was not any prettier, with Orlando looking flat and unimaginative going forward.
The one bright spot for Orlando heading into this match is the possibility of Dom Dwyer returning to the starting lineup. Dwyer missed the first three matches of the season with a quad injury, but he was in training the Monday before the match, so his inclusion would be vital for the team.
Kljestan has only played one full match for Orlando, making little impact in his 90 minute debut. He is clearly still learning the new system and should only grow more comfortable as the season goes on. If Dwyer does make his return, Kljestan will have a potent finisher to feed up top, which could be troublesome for the Red Bulls backline.
This is a game that the Red Bulls should head in to with high expectations despite their lineup changes. The team has shown this season that no matter who steps on the field, the team is an organized unit and is not afraid to take risks in order to score goals. The defense has been fortified and Kyle Duncan has been a revelation at the back.
Captain Luis Robles has also continued to show why he was picked to lead the team this season. His performances seem to get stronger every game, pulling out world class saves time and time again. Even when he has little work to do, Robles steps up and makes match defining decisions that often reinvigorate his team at just the right moments.
A win in Orlando should be the only thing on the mind of whichever XI takes the field for the Red Bulls. It will be hard not to look forward to the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, but getting all three points from this match first will mean the Red Bulls are just a point back from first place in the east. For a team that has mostly fielded it’s second team in the league this year, it is hard not to be excited for what the rest of the season holds for Marsch and his men.