The New York Red Bulls came back from the Gold Cup break with a bang. A convincing 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire featured a man of the match performance from Daniel Royer as well as another great performance by Kaku.
An early goal from the inform Paraguay international set the mood for the Red Bulls. A costly error by keeper Kenneth Kronholm gifted Kaku an easy chance just eight minutes in, and it was all Red Bulls the rest of the way.
Another goal by leading scorer Brian White in the second half seemed to be all the team needed, but a freak goal by Nemanja Nikolic in the 81st had Red Bull Arena a bit on edge.
The Red Bulls would get the last laugh, however, as Kyle Duncan burst down the right side and found a wide open Royer at the back post for the tap in finish. 3-1 was a deserved scoreline, especially for how well the team played after a long break.
Luis Robles had an incredible game between the stick, saving seven of the Fire’s eight on target. Combined with the budget backline the Red Bulls put out, it was an overall great night from front to back for Chris Armas’ men.
The team now has to shift focus to a Western Conference opponent that has really dipped in form the last few weeks. BBVA Compass Stadium is the destination, home to the not so hot Houston Dynamo.
A fourth round Open Cup victory in the beginning of June seemed like a good start for Houston to kick start their form, but all it did was start a downward spiral for the team. They have lost their last four in a row, including a Round of 16 Open Cup loss to Minnesota United in Houston.
Three away matches followed that Minnesota defeat, all ending in losses for the Dynamo. An aggregate score of 8-1 in those three matches tells the story of how poorly the team played. The one goal also came against the forever struggling New England Revolution, a match the Dynamo would still go on to lose anyway.
It was not always this bad for Houston this season. They started well despite their loss to Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League. June just has not been kind to the Dynamo, and they are hoping that will all change against the Red Bulls.
Exciting winger Alberth Elis will hopefully be available for Houston after making his exit from the Gold Cup with Honduras. Elis has five goals and five assists on the season and is a blur on the field.
Mauro Manotas and Elis combine well up top, with Manotas scoring six of his own and setting up three. The Colombian has not scored since the middle of May, though, so he will be desperate to end his scoring drought against the depleted Red Bulls defense.
The recent dip in offensive potency for the Dynamo comes at the perfect time for the Red Bulls. With three of the four usual defensive starters still away on Gold Cup duty, the team is forced to continue with a similar selection from the Chicago match.
Connor Lade did improve from his last outing, making three interceptions and winning five defensive duels. Tim Parker did only play 45 minutes due to injury concerns, so he is also a doubt for this match.
That means Sean Nealis will be starting in defense. This leaves no first team defensive bench players, which could cause Armas to call up Rece Buckmaster to the bench purely for defensive cover.
July is a grueling month for the Red Bulls. Multiple big matches in a row with little rest in between matches will test this team to its core. The Gold Cup is doing this team no favors, but Armas has a strong belief in every single member of this team regardless of their tenure.
A mouthwatering match against Atlanta looms over the horizon, but staying focused and leaving Houston with at least a point should be all this team is worried about. The heat will play a huge factor in this one, but an early goal or two by the Red Bulls could be enough to stave off this blundering Dynamo offense.