Preview: New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC

(Image, New York Red Bulls website)

(Image, New York Red Bulls website)

When the New York Red Bulls left DC United with a thrilling road win, all conversation surrounded the opportunity to build upon that achievement.

That didn’t happen. Sporting KC lulled them to sleep four days later and robbed them of points at home.

New York would rebound in resounding fashion against New England three days later and now find themselves back at square one. The need to build a solid winning streak prior to the June break begins (again) against Toronto FC.

“Result is very important,” head coach Mike Petke conceded. “We are on the road in an environment and a team that has improved a lot. It’s not going to be an easy task but if we stick to the basics, defending as a team, the effort we put in and the talent will be there. We have the talent but it’s the intangibles that we need to bring.”

How important is this game? If you believe in superstition, the team is breaking out their rare third kit – known affectionately by the fans as their “magic yellow shorts” – to add a little luck their way.

Will it be enough? EoS breaks down this weekend’s match:

PROJECTED LINEUP (4-4-2): Robles; Barklage, Olave, Holgersson, Miller; Sam, Cahill, Alexander, Steele; Henry, Espindola

ALL-TIME RECORD: Red Bulls 8-4-2 (2-3-3 in Toronto with 11GF, 11GA)

LAST MEETING: 4-1 Red Bulls (September 29th, 2012 at BMO)

BATTLE TO WATCH: Robert Earnshaw v. Red Bulls defense. Forget the fact that he has been lighting it up for TFC; Earnshaw is a known and feared commodity by the guys who know him best – including Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.

“He’s the typical striker that you saw with his goals against Kansas City, it has nothing in it but you miss a pass or miss something, you let the ball bounce and you don’t attack it before him, he will punish you,” Henry said. “That’s what he does best. I played against him so many times. He is the type of striker you might not see a lot in the game, but at the end of the game, you might see his name on the score sheet. We have to be careful. He’s a good player, a good striker, and hopefully he is going to be able to score goals but not against us.”

“He’s a player sometimes that may not even be involved in the games,” Cahill added. “He might not touch it for ten minutes but he is dangerous. I know him personally. I know what he has done in the Championship and obviously his time in the Premiership as well. A good footballer with a good footballing brain. In or around the area, half a yard, he snapshots. He really tries to catch the keeper flat footed and slot them into the corners and also an opportunist.

“A great footballer that I respect and it’s fantastic a player of his caliber coming to the MLS, respecting the league and putting a lot back in.”

That’s a lot of admiration from a pair that have seen it all. With Olave back and healthy, but a vital cog missing in the midfield with McCarty, New York will have their hands full with the deceptive Welsh striker.

X-FACTOR: Tim Cahill. No McCarty, No Juninho; that puts the onus on Cahill to be the sole leader in the midfield. Replacing McCarty’s non-stop two way engine in the middle won’t be easy. Cahill’s leadership will be tested in driving the troops.

OUTCOME:

While history clearly plays in the favor of New York, this is a different TFC.

“They are going to fancy a team with good players, players I’ve known and played against in the past,” Cahill noted. “I know the manager and his style of football, his no-nonsense work ethic that he demands from his players and that’s something he is working on as well. They have conceded a few late goals. It all comes down to the circumstances of games whether you are chasing or sitting.”

Both Henry and Cahill were aglow about the talented Welsh striker Earnshaw, but Toronto does have issues of it’s own. Koevermans, Dunfield, Eckersley and Russell will be out of this encounter. To Toronto’s credit, however, their depth has more than made up for their losses. Pay no mind to their 1-2-4 record. Though unsightly, it barely tells the story of an overly improved team that has had a rough bit of luck closing out matches.

“I saw them beating Kansas City, something that we haven’t done,” Henry noted. “They are very good. They’ve been doing better than last year. Earnshaw is being the key this year so we know we have a difficult task. It’s never an easy place to go and win so I know we are going to have a difficult one and Earnshaw is on fire so we have to make sure we contain him.”

Playing in New York’s favor is the fact that Toronto featured in a midweek derby against the Montreal Impact. That kind of schedule congestion is something the Red Bulls can relate to.

“We had a tough week to be honest,” he said. “Away DC, two games at home against Kansas City and New England, so it’s kind of weird when you play three games, and go back once a week every weekend. We go on the road again and we go one the road after that game some. we have to make sure we grab some points somewhere. We won in DC but it will be difficult to do it in Toronto and even more so in Columbus.

“It’s all about us, maintianing that the consistency in training is the most important thing about being discplined and backing it up,” Cahill added. “Just because its an away game doesn’t mean we take any less into it. We have to take all pumps into the barrel making sure the work ethic is there. Once you work harder than the other team, hopefully the result tells itself.”

PREDICTION: 2-1 Red Bulls
Season Record: (2-7)