The New York Red Bulls can head to Colorado this week knowing they are leaving behind a red state. Their utter dominance of NYCFC in the Hudson River Derby was yet another reminder that Patrick Vieira is still trying to iron out the wrinkles in his team that have hindered them from becoming an elite MLS club. With the blue smurfs in the rearview, a confident Red Bulls team looks forward to a match against the Rapids.
The Red Bulls have not traveled well this season, winning just one of their four away matches in MLS. The team has historically not travelled well, often costing them crucial points at the end of the season. A recent win in Los Angeles against the Galaxy could be the beginning of a turn in the tides for the team’s away form, with the Rapids not doing much recently to deter that statement.
The Colorado Rapids have not won a match in nearly a month, tasting defeat to Real Salt Lake, Orlando City and Sporting KC the past three weeks. The defense can be partly to blame for this run of form, as the Rapids have let in six goals in those three losses. Favoring the 352, manager Anthony Hudson often relies on his wing backs to help his defense out when they are getting overrun.
As much as the defense is to blame, the offense can be equally put at fault. Just one goal in the last three matches will simply not due in MLS, and the Rapids are learning that the hard way. Apart from their top scorer Dominique Badji, who is having a very good season so far with five goals to his name, the club only has four other players that have scored this season. Compared to the 10 different players who have scored for the Red Bulls, it is clear there needs to be another source of offense in Colorado team.
One thing that could help the Rapids is the return of Albanian forward Shkelzen Gashi. He has missed the team’s most recent match against Sporting KC due to a groin injury, but the Burgundy Wave reported that he participated in training a few days prior to the Red Bulls match. This could mean a return for Gashi, who will likely get minutes off the bench if he is cleared.
As for the Red Bulls, Connor Lade, Marc Rzatkowski, and Aurelien Collin will all miss the journey to Colorado. This will not change anything for Jesse Marsch, who will start a nearly identical team to the one that handled NYCFC over the weekend. This includes revived midfielder Florian Valot.
Valot’s resurgence in the team has been an unexpected but very welcomed sight. The French midfielder is playing the best football of his career for the team, scoring in back to back matches to bring his goal and assist tally both to three on the season. His switch to a right sided midfielder, almost acting as a winger at times, has allowed Sean Davis to continue his development next to Tyler Adams in the holding midfielder role.
Valot also creates and finishes chances that are drawn up by the masterclass that is Kaku. A world class performance against NYCFC proved to the doubters that he has officially adjusted to the Red Bulls system. Assists to both Valot and Bradley Wright-Phillips show that he is just as unselfish as he is praised to be. His continual upward trend only gets more exciting as the weeks go on, pushing the loss of Gonzalo Veron further out of the minds of Red Bulls fans.
The Red Bulls are continuing to show that crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League will not affect their MLS season. The team has won three of their last four and the offense has continued to light it up. Colorado is not in the best position going into this match, so as long as the Red Bulls stay focused, a positive result should come out of this west coast trip.