Preview: New York Red Bulls at Seattle Sounders

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Coming off a horrific home loss, the Red Bulls have to pick up the pieces on the road at MLS’ top team, the Seattle Sounders.

After a third of the season, it’s evident that opposing teams have solved New York’s high press.  As the Red Bulls slip further down the league table, Jesse Marsch and his players need to come up with a new strategy for generating goal scoring opportunities. With a single win in their last six matches, Sunday’s opponent is a tough assignment against which to turn things around.  Can New York shock in Seattle?


Match Information:
Sunday, May 31st at Red Bull Arena, 5:00p ET kickoff, TV/Streaming: ESPN2/WatchESPN
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
Seattle: 23 points from 12 matches, 18 GF/9 GA, 1st in the West, 1st in MLS, WLWDW
New York, 17 points from 11 matches, 14 GF/11 GA, 3rd in the East, t-9th in MLS, DLWDL


Seattle’s front line v the Red Bulls’ defense
Clint Dempsey & Felipe Martins vs. Kemar Lawrence, Damien Perrinelle, Karl Ouimette, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles)

Dempsey and Martins are performing on another level. The duo occupies the second and fourth slots on the MLS scoring chart (7G/5A for Dempsey, 6/2 for Martins) and account for 72 percent of Seattle’s league-leading goal output.  They’re lethal strikers that will punish defensive mistakes, and create chances out of nothing.  Martins broke his nose in Wednesday’s Sounders match against Colorado, but will play on Sunday. New York’s centerback troubles finally caught up with them last week.  With Young Matt Miazga away, Ronald Zubar still on the shelf, and Damien Perrinelle picking up a knock in warm-ups, fourth choice Karl Ouimette was joined by fifth choice, a repurposed and rusty Roy Miller, to disastrous effect. Miller had a horrible turnover passing out of the back in the first half, and then failed to track back on the Union’s second, tap-in goal.  With Kemar Lawrence’s hamstring tweak, Connor Lade was called onto help stop the bleeding.  It was a tough performance against a poorer offensive threat. Lawrence and Perrinelle should be back in the lineup, but Luis Robles will be busy. Very busy.

Advantage: Seattle


New York attack vs. the Sounders’ backline:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Leonardo, Zach Scott, Brad Evans, and Tyrone Mears (and Stefan Frei)

BWP had a season-high in shots against Philly (six) but put only one on frame in last week’s loss. Seattle has posted three straight shutouts and is currently on a 302-minute shutout streak, last conceding to Kei Kamara in the Sounders’ last loss, on May 9th in Columbus.  Stefan Frei and his back line are MLS’ top-ranked defense (0.75 GAA), with seven clean sheets in twelve matches. Newcomer Tyrone Mears joined the Sounders in the offseason after a prolific career in England, with stops at Man City, Preston North End, Derby County, Burnley, and Bolton. Evans, along with Mears and Frei, has played every minute for Seattle. Costa Rican Gonzalez played the full 90 on Wednesday, marking his first 90-minute match since March 28th. A holdover from the USL days, 34 year-old Zach Scott is in his fourteenth season in a Sounders uniform.

Advantage: Seattle


The Midfields:
Marco Pappa, Andy Rose, Osvaldo Alonso, and Lamar Neagle vs. Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Lloyd Sam

The Sounders will be with the injured Gonzalo Pineda (1A) but have plenty of options to feed the two star strikers. Marco Pappa’s curler from outside the box was the only goal in Seattle’s win over Colorado on Wednesday. Alonso is the hard man in the middle, leading with physical play and important distribution.  Neagle (2G) and Rose (2A) are box-to-box players that are difficult to contain.  New York’s midfield output was strong as usual against Philly, but even with 66 percent possession, holding the ball without generating chances has led to an unfulfilling stretch for the Red Bulls.  Mike Grella continues to show flashes of incredible skill, but has taken only two shots across his last three appearances.  Both Felipe and Kljestan hit woodwork last week, and either of those chances would have delivered points to New York. Kljestan in particular must look to shoot as well as distribute. Sam was managed well by the Union, and needs to create space before driving to goal.  McCarty will have his hands full Sunday trying to disrupt Seattle’s talented attack.

Slight Advantage: Seattle


The Coaches:

Sigi Schmid amusingly called out US Soccer this week for the lack of randomness to the club’s US Open Cup draw. Seattle will play Portland in the tourney’s fourth round in June. Of course, he called out the same group previously for the cross-country travel necessitated in prior years’ tournaments.  Still, his team in the Shield slot.  Marsch has said he’ll press Seattle as with other teams, but he needs to generate some new wrinkles to generate more offense.

Advantage: Seattle


Intangibles:

The Red Bulls have a single win at Seattle in club history, in 2010 on a goal by Mac Kandji. New York is 0-2-1 in other games at Centurylink field.  Of course, Sounders fans will pack it in for Sunday’s match, providing the largest fan experience in MLS.  Seattle is 4-1-1 at home this season, the only loss coming at the hands of San Jose in week two. Sunday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a high of 77 degrees. Wright-Phillips leads all New York goal scorers against Seattle with three on a hat trick in last season’s 4-1 pasting of the Sounders at Red Bull Arena, though Dempsey and Martins played only the second half of that match.  The Sounders are playing their third match in eight days.

Advantage: Seattle


 

Prediction:

The odds are long this week, as the Sounders boast the league’s stingiest defense and a tie for the highest scoring offense.  This might be a week to forget about the result and simply experiment with different formations and personnel in them for the matches to come.  One can hope that Seattle will be tired after a challenging week, allowing New York some chances.  The Red Bulls may surprise, but I don’t think  a win is in the cards.  Seattle wins 2-1.


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  • marcia

    Seems like all the advantages are in Seattle’s Favor…won’t it be a kick in the head when RBs WIN!


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