The New York Red Bulls’ 3-1 midweek loss in Toronto had few bright spots, and the result caused quite the stir amongst supporters.
Derrick Etienne had a brilliant assist to Tom Barlow for New York’s only goal of the match, but, just eight minutes later, as New York was threatening for an equalizer, Ashtone Morgan shut down any hopes of a comeback after a boneheaded move by Michael Murillo.
The last couple matches have not been the brightest for the Red Bulls’ fullbacks. Kemar Lawrence was responsible for the penalty that gave Toronto a two-goal lead. Both Murillo and Lawrence seem to be suffering from a bit of Gold Cup hangover.
The defense in general needs to sharpen up as it heads south to face an Orlando side that has gotten favorable results in recent weeks. A draw against the top team in the East was followed up with an Open Cup win over NYCFC and a league win against the Crew.
Orlando then went to Portland on Thursday and escaped with a point in an action-packed 1-1 draw. The short rest and lengthy travel for both teams will be felt in this one, but Orlando could be getting a very dangerous player back into the lineup.
Nani has not featured since the July 7 match against the Union, but the Portuguese danger man returned to full training on Monday and should see action against the Red Bulls. He was not so dangerous in the reverse fixture on March 23 (which Orlando won via a Sacha Kljestan goal), but his form since then has improved dramatically.
He leads Orlando in goals (8) and assists (7), and has really grown into his role, something the team as a whole has benefited from.
The Red Bulls welcomed Vincent Bezecourt back into the lineup against Toronto, as the Frenchman saw his first minutes since May 11. A deserved full rest for Sean Davis means the Long Branch native will be ready to go in Orlando, while Bradley Wright-Phillips may finally see a start at striker.
Daniel Royer also saw reduced minutes, playing just 20 in the loss in Canada. He should be back in the starting XI as well, with Amro Tarek possibly making a return as well.
Tarek has been a strong performer in the absence of Aaron Long, and Long’s return bumped Tarek to the bench so Tim Parker could start. After the Toronto match, fans clamored online for Tarek’s return to the starting lineup next to Long.
Armas is never one to listen to the chatter, but it is hard to ignore the performances Tarek has put in for the Red Bulls. He is by no means the best central defender in the league, but the display against Toronto does warrant some sort of rotation in the backline.
Three 90-minute performances in 10 days could see a change in both fullbacks for the Red Bulls. Connor Lade and Kyle Duncan may be called in for rotation purposes, so a very different-looking backline is possible.
Still, a win should be the result New York comes away with in Orlando. The East gets more tense with each passing match-day, and keeping up with the top of the table is crucial in these tightly-packed weeks.
Exploria Stadium is not a fortress for Orlando City yet, but support since the win against NYCFC has been incredible. The atmosphere should be rocking in Florida, and the humidity on the pitch will be unbearable.
Armas, great at switching his tactics at halftime, needs a stronger start to the match. A goal before the 30-minute mark would be a great way to get New York out of its funk. A heavy-pressing start could be the key to victory down south.