The New York Red Bulls have played 17 regular season matches in the 2013 MLS season. If you’re keeping track at home, NY is now at the halfway point in their season. The Red Bulls are now on a game a week schedule until the FIFA international break in the beginning of October.
Meltdown in Philly
The Red Bulls traveled 90 minutes down to Philly to take a 90 minute 3-0 thrashing by their young rivals, the Philadelphia Union. Red Bull killer Connor Casey netted a brace to power the Union past a 10 man NY side. The Red Bulls were reduced to 10 men after midfielder Lloyd Sam made an awkward and reckless two footed challenge on the Union’s Danny Cruz in the 28th minute. After that, NY really did not look to be in it. The Red Bulls seemed to try and create chances but never really got a shot off on goal. That counts even more when you are going up against Zac MacMath. There are a few silver linings that the Red Bulls can take away from this otherwise forgettable match. Keeper Luis Robles for the most part looked spot on in the game and could really do nothing about the goals let in. Robles also won MLS’s save of the week for a kick save on a Jack Mac 1v1 play.
Defense Wearing Thin
The Red Bulls started off the season with uncertainty along the backline. Then from mid April through the end of May, NY made a run and Mike Petke looked to upgrade his offensive firepower come the summer transfer window. However, as with most things in Red Bulls land, things change. Defender Heath Pearce took an MRI on Friday and found out he had an injury that could be properly healed with surgery. That surgery on his hip, however, would require a six-month recovery period and would effectively end his season. The injury had been nagging at Pearce for the better part of two years and it started to show this season. With the resurgence of Roy Miller, Red Bull fans have turned to a few faces to blame losses on, and Pearce has quickly climbed to the top of that list for some. Pearce has taken to twitter to defend his play and confront fans when they are unhappy with him. In one such instance, I was even involved in the exchange (though on the side of Pearce). Other than a “hip knock”, the injury Pearce suffered is unknown. What’s known is that the Red Bulls backline is paper-thin at the moment.
Besides Pearce, Roy Miller will be out once again on international duty with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup and could miss more than a few matches. Brazilian center back and brother of Kaka, Digao is still somehow injured and unavailable factor in for NY right now. That leaves Brandon Barklage, Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson, Kosuke Kimura, Connor Lade, and new homegrown signing Matt Miazga (fresh off of finishing high school). Red Bull Salzburg defender Ibrahim Sekagya is currently on trial with the club and Petke is confident NY is fine at the back. During the past few summer seasons, the Red Bulls experienced massive dips in form and fans are hoping that Petke’s confidence is not misplaced at this point in the season.
Red Out at Red Bull Arena
Sunday afternoon, the Red Bulls finally return home to Red Bull Arena and host the Houston Dynamo. Every fan in attendance will receive a Red Bulls red t-shirt as part of a promotion to “red out” the stadium. On the field, New York is finally due for some good news. Midfielder’s Tim Cahill and Juninho, along with defender Jamison Olave will all be returning to the lineup for Mike Petke. While the backline could be bolstered by Olave’s return, Cahill and Juninho’s return is better for the Red Bulls. With the two veteran midfielders back, Thierry Henry can once again stay closer to the net. Against Philly last week, Henry was repeatedly dropping deeper and deeper into the midfield and his link play with Luyindula was non-existent. Espindola was downgraded to a sub role in favor of the dual French striker partnership. Luyindula has just not settled into the team, whether it be setbacks from injury or not, his form has not improved but gotten worse since the beginning of the season. Espindola hasn’t been much better only netting goals in both Open Cup matches. With the suspension of Sam, Cahill up top alongside Henry is not likely. The only other real option is former Rapids striker Andre Akpan. Akpan is a striker who an hold up the ball and allow Henry to move into better position or pick up the late runs out of the midfield. However, Petke will likely once again start Luyindula or Espindola alongside Henry.
The other tiny bit of good news for the Red Bulls is that Houston is also struggling in recent games. The Dynamo are winless in their last six league matches, only scoring twice in those games. State rival FC Dallas also knocked them out of the Open Cup. Brad Davis, fresh off his stint with the USMNT during World Cup qualifiers, is out for the match with injury. Honduran midfielder Boniek Garcia is a probable to play but could feature just off the bench and not a full 90 minutes. Hopefully Petke doesn’t decide to play Holgersson out on the right side of the defense. Even without Brad Davis, Houston will deploy Andrew Driver who has quietly put together a solid season. Driver also has a bit of speed to him and Holgersson is possibly one of the worst defenders 1v1 with speed. If the Dynamo smell blood in the water in the form of Holgersson on an island, expect Bobby Boswell to hit long ball after long ball to the forwards, especially if Boswell gets space to start a Houston counter. The only way to stop that, is to defend as a team and put immediate pressure on balls the Red Bulls lose.