Preview: New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

The Red Bulls rode Tim Cahill’s return from the World Cup into a 2-2 home draw with Toronto FC last week.  The late, late equalizer was admirable, but continued to highlight the inconsistent nature of the team’s performances. 

New York now heads to Houston, where the team had great success last year (2-0-1 at BBVA, including the playoffs) and are catching the Dynamo in a dire stretch of league play (five straight losses without a single goal scored). Word out of Red Bulls camp was that Dax McCarty will sit out another match, which should give optimistic New York fans pause.  Adding insult to McCarty’s injury is the Red Bulls’ record on July 4th, which is dreadful (2-13-3). Houston’s World Cup stars Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia have returned, but one wonders, other than the skies at night being big and bright, just what will go on Friday night in Texas.

Match Information:
Friday, July 4th at BBVA Compass Stadium, 8:30p ET kickoff, TV: NBCSN

Referee: Ismail Elfath

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Houston, 17 points from 17 matches, 16 GF/32 GA, 8th in the East, 15th in MLS, LLLLL
New York, 19 points from 16 matches, 24 GF/24 GA, t5th in the East, t12th in MLS, LLDWD

The Dynamo front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:
Giles Barnes and Will Bruin vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Jamison Olave, Matt Miazga, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
Given that the Dynamo hasn’t scored in league play in over 480 minutes, Houston does have quality forwards. Barnes is officially listed as a midfielder, but has started up top often. His three goals on the season have the Englishman way behind last year’s pace, when he finished with nine.  With 6 goals and an assist this season, Will Bruin is well on his way to matching his MLS high of twelve tallies back in 2012.  Bruin’s aim, however, has deserted him, with only 20 shots on frame is sixteen matches.  Are the kids truly alright?  Give Petke props for starting three young defenders last week versus TFC.  New York’s backline conceded only a superb Giberto free kick and a bit of brilliance by Jermaine DefoeMatt Miazga was solid next to Olave, and delivered the ball that wound up tying the match in the final minute.  Oyongo is clearly the weakest link, but improved significantly from the US Open Cup drubbing.  Duvall continues to shine at right back. New York has conceded four goals in four matches since Duvall joined the starting lineup, including a single shutout.
Advantage: New York

New York’s attackers vs. the Houston defense:
Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillps vs. Corey Ashe, A.J. Cochran, Jermaine Taylor, Kofi Sarkodie (and Tally Hall).
While certainly working their way back into playing shape, the New York forwards should feast on the league’s worst defense. Henry assisted on Luyindula’s opening goal last week at home, and BWP (five goals against Houston all-time), tied the match deep into injury time.  Wright-Phillips was active all match long, with five shots including the aforementioned goal.  Houston’s back line is in a world of hurt, having conceded thirteen goals over the last five league matches, all losses.  Yes, the team has centerback David Horst slowly working his way back from a groin injury, but conceded three goals to a woeful Montreal team last week continued Houston’s miserable run. Tally Hall was at one point considered to be challenger for the US in 2018, but it’ll be hard to see that happen if the Dynamo continue their current form. Ashe (3a) and Sarkodie (1a) are the only Dynamo defensemen with any scoring stats.
 Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Eric Alexander, Tim Cahill, Ibrahim Sekagya and Lloyd Sam vs. Brad Davis, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Rico Clark and Andrew Driver. 
Petke’s big challenge this week is how to fit all the in-form and returning stars into the lineup at the same time. McCarty is still out, Cahill must start, and Luyindula’s ability to get up and down the left wing is limited, so sadly I have the in-form Frenchman on the bench in favor of Eric AlexanderSekagya will again play in front of the Red Bulls back line, even though he offered little resistance against TFC last week.  Sam (only two assists in his last seven matches) will again be called on to start attacks from the right side.  If there’s one bright spot for Houston this week, it’s the return of Brad Davis from the USMNT. Davis appeared in a single match in Brazil, but the key Dynamo cog will be in form and ready to contribute. Boniek Garcia (1g, 1a) has been a major disappointment this season, but is also back from Brazil. Clark (2g, 1a) is returning to the starting lineup after missing nine matches.  Driver has but a single assist this season. Advantage: Even

The Coaches:
Dom Kinnear is suffering through one of his worst runs (six losses in seven league matches) in his coaching history.  He’ll have plenty of emotional ammo to get his team ready for Friday though, from Houston’s 4-0 loss at Red Bull Arena on April 23rd, to his side’s woeful record against New York last season (save the playoffs) to the return of leader Davis. Mike Petke saw his team lose a lead at home last week, then scramble for a late draw, but with New York next stretch of matches against teams trailing his club in the MLS East (Houston, Columbus, & Philadelphia), now is the time for the Red Bulls to start getting their season in gear.  Petke continues to state his confusion over his team’s lackluster performances.  Without help from outside, he’ll have to motivate his club to play to their potential.
Advantage: Even

Intangibles:
The Red Bulls best all-around performance this season came in the 4-0 win over Houston at home this season, but New York has a fine record playing the Dynamo away (3-3-5). BWP’s five goals against Houston is second in franchise history only to Juan Pablo Angel’s six  Friday’s weather report in Houston is dreary for soccer, with a high of ninety-two degrees, sixty-plus percent humidity, and a forty-percent chance of Thundershowers. A lightning delay is possible. After Friday’s match, the Red Bulls will only play outside for the Eastern time zone in MLS four more times this season; at RSL on July 30th, at Chicago August 10th, at LA on September 28th, and at SKC on the season’s final day. Houston’s defense has allowed 3, 2, 3, 3, and 2 goals in its last five matches.
Slight Advantage: New York

Prediction:
Friday’s is the type of match that would indicate a relatively easy Red Bulls’ victory; an atrocious opponent in miserable form with the league’s worst defense, a venue where New York has done historically well, the return of a seemingly in-form Tim Cahill who scored the league’s fastest goal ever in that city last year.  However, this season, those indicators have been faulty.  Houston will be lifted by the return of Brad Davis, who makes his team dangerous every time he has his foot on the ball.  The weather will be just awful, and will sap New York’s aging stars’ energy as the match wears on.  Given New York’s mostly young defense, I think New York escapes with a point in a wild 3-3 draw.