The New York Red Bulls are starting to grind out some serious results this season. Their most recent victory, a 1-0 home win against Atlanta United, showed just how hard this team is willing to work for three points.
A few familiar faces stepped up big time for the team, while others are starting to build a name for themselves this season. This combination is working very well for the team as of late, especially with the amount of rotation Chris Armas is implementing.
Daniel Royer continues to be a key figure in the Red Bulls attack. He recorded his third assist in the last four matches, setting up Tom Barlow on a beautiful curling pass to the back post. Royer has not scored in over a month, but the contributions he is making through his passing ability are second to none in the team.
Marc Rzatkowski also continues to show up for his team, nearly registering his second goal of the season. His effort rattled off the crossbar early in the first half, but the German finished the match strongly by drawing fouls, making tackles, and setting up his teammates in the final third.
Arguably the man of the match for the Red Bulls was defender Amro Tarek. After a questionable red card was handed out to Tim Parker just 35 minutes into the match, Tarek made it his personal mission to lead his team to victory. He made three tackles, three interceptions, and was a rock for keeper Luis Robles for the full 90 minutes.
Both Michael Murillo and Kemar Lawrence also had impressive showings in defense, combining for 12 recoveries and seven aerial duels won. Lawrence was especially influential towards the end of the match, shutting down the left side of the pitch.
The team as a whole played very well despite being down a man for over half the match. The resilience showed a lot of character and was uplifting for many supporters. It shows the team is capable of pulling out tough results in big matches.
Not every match is against a rival, though, and the midweek clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps is one that the Red Bulls cannot be complacent about. New York has already lost against a few teams that have been near the bottom of the table, so they need to go into this match with as much intensity as the Atlanta victory.
The Whitecaps have struggled to put together any sort of form. They have won just three matches and scored only 12 goals in their 13 played. A loss to Atlanta last week was followed by a 1-1 draw with floundering Sporting Kansas City. With just two wins in the last six, the team needs something to change.
Fredy Montero is the dangerman for Vancouver, scoring three goals this season and assisting one. He scored the lone goal in the Whitecaps most recent win against the Portland Timbers, riffling home a finish early in the first half.
Atalanta loanee Ali Adnan is the other real bright spot on this team. The Iranian has notched two assists on the year and has continually showed off his dribbling ability. He will be key in the Whitecaps putting chances together and he looks to get forward and create opportunities for his team.
The Whitecaps have favored a 433 for most of the season, so the Red Bulls will have the edge in the midfield. The energetic Omir Fernandez could see a full 90 minutes performance, considering he was an unused sub against Atlanta. Cristhian Casseres also failed to make an appearance, so the two are likely starters in this match against Vancouver.
It would be hard to sit Tom Barlow as well following his game winning goal, so expect the passionate forward to lead the line. With Aarong Long still injured and Parker suspended, Sean Nealis will see another start this season as well.
The fact that the Red Bulls can make these changes and still field a squad that is more than capable of pulling out a result says a lot about the depth the team possesses. There are even arguments that the second team has performed better than the first team, so this is just another chance for the youngsters to make their mark.
With another match right around the corner this Saturday, the Red Bulls need to take it one match at a time. Another win would put the team tied for fourth, and with the form that both teams are in, three points seems very obtainable for Armas and his team.