The New York Red Bulls kicked off their home debut with a strong second half performance. They downed the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1 thanks to a brilliant performance from Alex Muyl off the bench.
Muyl came on for the injured Florian Valot 35 minutes into the match, as the Frenchman sustained another ACL injury. A second half brace by Muyl sparked the comeback, as goals from BWP and Daniel Royer rounded out the evening.
The goals that Muyl scored were not highlight reel material, but he was in the right place at the right time. It will be hard for Chris Armas to bench him heading into the Orlando City match, especially considering the status of the squad.
The Red Bulls are going into the Saturday night matchup with Orlando missing some notable faces. Kaku is said to be out for the second straight match, with Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long and Michael Murillo also unavailable.
Tim Parker is also doubtful following an ankle injury during the Quakes match. This leaves Armas with just four defenders to choose from. Sean Nealis and Amro Tarek are the only two central defenders, while Kyle Duncan and Connor Lade are the only remaining fullbacks.
The lack of defensive options could prompt Armas to play Cristian Casseres Jr. in the midfield instead of Marc Rzatkowski. Casseres started and played the full 90 minutes against the Columbus Crew in the first MLS match of the season, making two tackles and winning four aerial duels.
The defensive solidity Casseres brought against the Crew will be helpful against Orlando, even if it means coming off the bench to tighten up the back line. Orlando may not be a top tier offensive team in MLS, but they certainly have some firepower.
Orlando has scored in each of their first three MLS matches, recording two draws and a loss. Portuguese winger/forward Nani is the newest addition to the Orlando City squad, and the dynamism he brings will be troubling for the makeshift Red Bulls defense.
Nani recorded an assist in his first appearance for Orlando, setting up the ever dangerous Dom Dwyer. Just like last season, Dwyer is the main threat for City going forward.
Through the first three matches, Dwyer has two goals and an assist to his name. Dwyer has only played 90 minutes in one of those three matches, proving he can be dangerous with limited involvement.
Orlando also have young forward Chris Mueller, who has impressed in his first few matches of the year. The 22 year old American has the young energy that Orlando needs to take advantage of. The team should look to link him with the veterans of the team to get the best out of the attack.
Unfortunately for Orlando, the same troubles that haunted them last season have returned. Injuries and an inability to defend make their offensive optimism nearly moot. They have allowed six goals in the first three matches, including three in their previous match against the Montreal Impact.
Much like the Red Bulls last match, the team needs to be patient and even resilient should they give up the first goal. The Earthquakes stunned Red Bull Arena with a 5th minute goal, but the team knew they would get their chances.
It took 51 minutes, but once the Red Bulls opened up the opposition, the goals did not stop. The same mentality needs to be brought to the Orlando match. Royer has been in fantastic form since February, so he will be key to unlocking the Red Bulls attack.
This is another match that the Red Bulls will be favorites in. At home, the team should be able to take care of business. The defensive frailties are concerning, but Armas will preach confidence and togetherness to get the team through the tough time.
Do not expect the Red Bulls to sit deep just because they are short at the back. The normal pressing is expected, and if anything Orlando will look to hit the Red Bulls on the counter. It is set up to be a great match as both teams look for an early season boost.