Aurelien Collin and Alex Muyl are suspended after the first leg in Guadalajara, perhaps making New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch’s job a little easier, at least when it comes to picking a team for the second leg of his teams 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal against Chivas.
RBNY is playing at home and needs a win by two goals or more to be certain of proceeding to the final (or a 1-0 win to at least send the match to penalties). As such, it will be a surprise to see the team line up with three center-backs, as it did for the first leg. This prediction is assuming we’ll see a return to a more conventional back four, in part because Collin is unavailable, but mostly because RBNY could use the extra man in a more advanced position from the start.
The question of who replaces Alex Muyl might have taken Marsch a while longer to answer. His options include Florian Valot, Vincent Bezecourt, and Derrick Etienne - all seasoned players in the RBNY system and capable of filling Muyl’s typical position on the right side of the attack. Indeed, Marsch has repeatedly suggested his 6-million-dollar man, Kaku, isn’t quite ready to claim his presumptive starting role just yet, which very much suggests Muyl will be replaced by less-vaunted but more RalfBall-ready player.
But this prediction thinks Jesse is playing a little game of misdirection. Kaku is fit - as far as we know - and ready to play. He may not be entirely up to speed with his new team’s tactical preferences, but his strengths - a high degree of creativity and technical ability on the ball - seem to match up well against an opponent expected to deploy a high pressing, man-marking scheme from the start.
So Once A Metro says Kaku starts as RBNY seeks to score early and often at Red Bull Arena. The time for players better-versed in the Red Bulls defensive tactics will be when the team has a lead to defend. It’s kicking off with a 1-0 deficit and an urgent need for goal, preferably two. This won’t be Kaku’s last big game for RBNY, but it would be a good time for him to start his first one.
GK - Luis Robles: his early season form has been outstanding. Those doubting a goalkeeper can really lead a team on the field need only watch his performance in Tijuana in the first leg of the quarterfinals of this year’s CCL.
LB - Kemar Lawrence: expected to be encouraged to get forward a lot, and maybe we’ll see more use of his ability to launch long balls into the box from throw-ins.
CBs - Aaron Long and Tim Parker: quickly established as the starting CB pairing for RBNY, and no reason to expect that to change for this game.
RB - Amir Murillo: he’s playing for a place in Panama’s World Cup squad and maybe a move to Europe in the summer transfer window. No shortage of motivation for Murillo this spring.
CMs - Tyler Adams and Marc Rzatkowski: if Adams is fit, Adams plays; Rzatkowski is a pressing machine when he gets going.
LW - Daniel Royer: Hasn’t really needed to find the net as often as he did last season because BWP has been in prime form to start the year. But Royer is RBNY’s next-best scoring threat, and this would be a good game for him to assert those credentials.
CAM - Kaku: What has Jesse Marsch been waiting for with Kaku, if not the opportunity to let him do what he does best in a must-win game against elite opposition?
RW - Sean Davis: has to play somewhere, and with full backs expected to advance regularly to provide width, he can tuck in and play closer to the more central positions he seems to favor.
FWD - Bradley Wright-Phillips: now would not be the time to drop BWP.
Subs: Ryan Meara, Fidel Escobar, Derrick Etienne, Florian Valot, Vincent Bezecourt, Connor Lade, Carlos Rivas