Preview: New York Red Bulls v San Jose Earthquakes

IMAGE, COURTESY NEW YORK RED BULLS

By MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Red Bulls fans were rightly incensed with the club’s 3-1 drubbing in Chester, PA on Wednesday night.

After a weekend romp over Columbus, New York looked lethargic mid-week.  Conceding another early goal, the Red Bulls were forced to chase yet again. Despite holding nearly 60 percent possession, New York conceded three times on four Union shots on goal (including LeToux’s PK) to end its five-match unbeaten streak. 

Now, playing for the third time in eight days, the Red Bulls welcome the league’s second-worst team in San Jose.  Which New York team will show up?  Red Bulls fans frankly have no idea, but are apoplectic over their inconsistent team’s performances.

Match Information:
Saturday, July 19th at Red Bull Arena, 7:00p ET kickoff, TV: MSG

Referee: Jose Carlos Romero

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York, 23 points from 19 matches, 31 GF/30 GA, t4th in the East, t10th in MLS, WDDWL
San Jose, 16 points from 16 matches, 16 GF/18 GA, 8th in the West, 18th in MLS, WLLLL

The Earthquakes’ front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:

Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Lenhart vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles). 
Wondo continues to chug along (six goals in ten ninety-minute appearances) and scored the Quakes’ only goal in last week’s 2-1 home loss to DC United. Lenhart’s performance has been a complete mystery. In nine matches this season since coming back from injury, the controversial forward has zero goals. None.  Lenhart will surely want to feast on New York’s young backline, and is clearly due to score.  New York’s growing pains continue in the back, as Matt Miazga was turned inside out by Conor Casey on Philly’s first goal on Sunday, and despite Oyongo and Duvall’s ability to push forward, the two (especially Oyongo) are susceptible on defense. Where can Petke turn?  To Sekagya, New York’s more experienced but less mobile centerback (Armando stays firmly bolted to the bench).  
Advantage: San Jose

New York’s attackers vs. the San Jose defense:

Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Philips vs. Brandon Barklage, Victor Bernardez, Clarence Goodson, and Jordan Stewart (and Jon Busch).
All-Star Thierry Henry collected his league-leading 10th assist of the season at Philly, feeding (who else) BWP for his league-leading 16th goal.  These two seem to be good for at least one score per game.  Look for Wright-Phillips to nab a commissioners’ pick for the All-Star game v Bayern Munich.  Like Columbus last weekend, San Jose doesn’t score often, but doesn’t concede often either.  Jon Busch has the third-best GAA in the league (1.13) among starting keepers.  The Quakes have conceded five times in the club’s last four matches, all one-goal losses. Former Red Bull Barklage was victimized by DC last weekend and was subbed off at halftime.  Bernardez (2G/1A) was a member of the Honduran’s World Cup team.  Former US National teamer Goodson has been shuffled in and out of the lineup over the last month. Englishman Jordan Stewart joined the club a year ago from Coventry and has yet to record a goal or an assist.   
Advantage: Even

The Midfields:

Eric Alexander, Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam vs. Atiba Harris, Sam Cronin, Khari Stephenson, and Yannick Djalo.
With Henry dropping further and further back into the midfield, perhaps he should be listed here instead of as a forward. In any case, Cahill has had back-to-back quiet matches since delivering his late assist against Toronto.  McCarty went  87 minutes at Philly, but lacked bite.  Alexander had one shot on goal, and was replaced by Andre Akpan in the 80th minute.   Sam was passible mid-week. With Luyindula back and apparently healthy after a toe injury was strangely reported as “personal reasons,” there’s quality cover for New York in the center of the field. Djalo (1G) has been a quality pickup this season for San Jose.  Signed from Benfica on loan, San Jose’s #10 has started the last three matches. Stephenson (2G, 2A) has started eight of the Quakes’ last nine games, going the full ninety in the last three. Cronin, like Lenhart, has zero points this season. San Jose is Harris’ sixth team in his 10-year MLS career.  Advantage: Even

Coaches:

When a coach admits that his club looked fatigued before the match, then waits 80 minutes to make any changes despite trailing most of the night, fans have a right to question what’s going on with Mike Petke.  The only thing to seemingly light a fire under the Red Bulls of late was Henry’s tirade versus Columbus.  Like other sophomore coaches, Petke’s having a tough season, as is San Jose’s Mark Watson.  The Earthquakes’ skipper closed 2013 with an 11-5-3 record, but this season seems only to be a precursor for next year’s move into the club’s permanent home, still under construction.  Yes, Watson  had to deal with the Concacaf Champions League early in the season, and suffered without Wondo and Bernardez for the World Cup. While the Quakes are keeping it close during their current losing streak, four wins in sixteen matches is nothing to crow about.    
Advantage: Even (both in a bad way)

Intangibles:

New York hasn’t played the Earthquakes in sixteen months since the infamous “Roy Miller Meltdown” at Buck Shaw last March. The Earthquakes started on a very New York-like five-match winless streak (0-2-3), then won four of seven, and now have lost four straight.  After tomorrow’s match, New York will have only three remaining matches against Western Conference teams. However, the opponents are Seattle, Salt Lake and Los Angeles, the top three teams in the West. The weather outlook for Saturday night is great, with mostly cloudy skies, a temperature of 74 degrees, and zero chance of rain. After Wednesday’s performance on national television, I’m not expecting a big crowd, despite the post-match fireworks show.  It’ll probably be similar to the Columbus crowd: I’m thinking 17 thousand:   
Advantage: New York

Prediction:

It has become impossible to predict how this team will perform on any given day.  Given San Jose’s tight defense, a low-scoring match might be in the offing, but I thought the same against Columbus and New York blew them out. A rested San Jose is due for a win. Lenhart is due for a goal. New York is tired and searching for answers. The home crowd will be in full voice.  If New York loses, missing the playoffs will become a real possibility. I predict angst, relief, and/or pain. Probably all of those things.  New York will definitely win 2-1, lose 2-1 or draw 1-1.

  • Anthony J. Merced

    I feel like we’re back where we were before the Columbus game. Every time this team seems to build momentum they take a step back but not so far back that they are doomed. Very talented side that shoots themselves in the foot on a game by game basis.