Preview: New York Red Bulls at DC United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

The Red Bulls continue to roll on as the MLS home stretch is upon us. Unbeaten in seven league matches and ten overall, New York returns to the scene of their most lifeless performance: a two-nil drubbing at the hands of rival DC United on May 13th.

With revenge on their minds, can the Red Bulls finally capture three points away from Harrison, keep pace with the Eastern leaders, and push rival DC down the Eastern conference dogpile?


Match Information

Sunday, August 21st at RFK Stadium, 3pm ET Kickoff

TV/Streaming: ESPN/Watch ESPN

Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio

Referee: Ismail Elfath

Record: GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form

DC United: 27 points from 23 gms, 24GF/28GA,  t-6th in East, t-14th in MLS, DLDDW

New York: 36 points from 25 gms, 43GF/33GA,  3rd in East, 7th in MLS, DWDDW


Projected Lineups

DC United

DCvNY

New York

NYvDC


The DC attack versus the Red Bulls back line

Patrick Mullins vs. Kemar Lawrence, Aurelien Collin, Ronald Zubar, Chris Duvall, and Luis Robles

DC made a lot of moves during the transfer window in an apparent effort to get younger and less expensive. Veteran Fabian Espindola was shipped off to Vancouver (who shipped him straight out MLS) as the team acquired former Rev and NYC striker Patrick Mullins. The former two-time Hermann award winner as college soccer’s best player, Mullins picked up his first assist in a DC uniform in his club’s home win over Portland last week.  The Red Bulls were embarrassed by Montreal on the Impact’s only goal last Saturday at Red Bull Arena, failing spectacularly on a counter attack. The squad tightened up as the match went on.  Luis Robles hasn’t posted a shutout in the league in a month. Ronald Zubar remains on yellow card watch.

Slight Advantage: New York


The New York forward versus the United defense

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Taylor Kemp, Bobby Boswell, Steven Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, and Bill Hamid

Now the all-time leading scorer in franchise history, BWP is in terrific form, notching five goals in his last four league matches. The DCU back line conceded twelve times in six winless matches before shutting out Portland last week. Taylor Kemp (1G/2A) scored his only goal of the season two weeks ago against the Union. Boswell (1A), a twelve-year vet, picked up his first point of the season against Portland. US International Birnbaum (2G) has scored in each of DC’s last two matches.  Sean Franklin (1G/1A) is a two-way player whose overlapping runs may push Kemar Lawrence to stay at home, or track back quickly.  Well-respected keeper Bill Hamid has posted four clean sheets in his last thirteen appearances.

Advantage: New York


The Midfields

Patrick Nyarko, Luciano Acosta, Marcelo Sarvas, Jared Jeffrey, and Lloyd Sam vs. Mike Grella, Felipe, Sacha Kljestan, Sean Davis, and Gonzalo Veron.

In the 4-1-4-1 formation that DC Coach Ben Olsen has been employing, Sarvas sits as a lone central defensive mid ahead of the defense. Nyarko (3G/2A) is a burner that frequently punished New York as a member of the Chicago Fire. Nyarko registered a goal and an assist in United’s 2-0 win over the Red Bulls in May. The diminutive Acosta (2G/4A) leads DCU in assists. Another Galaxy castoff, Sarvas (1A) hasn’t come close to matching his MLS bests of three goals and eleven assists with LA in 2014. A former US youth international, Jared Jeffrey is in his fourth season in DC. He’s played as many minutes this season than in the previous three combined. Lastly comes former Red Bulls fan favorite, Lloyd Sam. It will be very strange to see Sam suited up for DC United, and playing against New York. Since making the switch, Sam has played in four of six DC matches, gone the full 90 once, and has picked up two assists. New York’s midfield has been buoyed by the stellar play of homegrown Sean Davis, who has scored in both matches since Captain Dax McCarty went down with injury. Sacha Kljestan, league leader in assists, saved a point for New York in the Champions League with a strong 29-minute appearance and a helper on the tying goal. Gonzalo Veron gets my nod over Alex Muyl at right wing. Felipe, Mike Grella, and Muyl are all on yellow-card watch. With Omer Damari showing his skill and picking up his first Red Bull goal in El Salvador, and Daniel Royer finally active for Sunday, it’s possible that either may start or get meaningful minutes.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Coaches

Ben Olsen has been the coach at DC since 2010. Over that time, DC has finished last (eighth), seventh, second, last (tenth), first, and fourth, and has been eliminated by New York in each of the last two seasons. As his team’s ownership has foundered while focusing solely on finally securing a true home ground, Olsen has continued to fight the good fight. With one win in seven, and teetering on missing the playoffs again, Olsen is doing the best he can with what he has. Jesse Marsch has his team halfway to doing something never accomplished before in New York: advancing in the CCL. With injuries in the back and new weapons in attack, Marsch must hope his charges stay cool, with four starters a yellow card away from suspension.

Advantage: New York


Intangibles

Sunday’s match will be the 86th meeting between the teams, in all competitions. United has the edge 43-30-12 since 1996. DC is playing its fourth straight match at home, after five straight on the road. United is only 5-4-3 at home this season, while New York continues to look for the club’s second road win of the season. Only Houston, Chicago, Columbus, and Orlando have fewer home wins than United this year. The home team is 10-1-1 in the series since August of 2013. The lone away win was New York winning at RFK in last season’s playoffs. The Red Bulls are 10-3-6 since April 24th. DC is 4-5-6 over the same span. BWP has five goals against DCU. Savarese and Antony de Avila hold the New York record with seven. The Sunday afternoon forecast calls for light rain and temps around ninety degrees at kickoff. DC is eighteenth in the league in attendance, attracting fewer than sixteen thousand fans per match.

Slight Advantage: DC United


Prediction:

After coming close in their last four or five road matches, Sunday will see New York finally break through on the road. After a frankly dismal performance in May at RFK, the Red Bulls, lifted by their new additions, will play to their potential.  New York wins two-nil on goals from BWP and Omer Damari and keeps the pressure on the teams ahead of them in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.