Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. DC United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

With six matches to go, four of them at home, the Red Bulls are in the mix to finish atop the Eastern Conference for the second straight year.

New York has yet to defeat Sunday’s opponent, D.C. United, in 2016, and the Atlantic Cup is on the line. Playing without the usual starting attacking wings, can the Red Bulls flaunt their depth on a day that Lloyd Sam returns to Red Bull Arena wearing DC colors?


Match Information

Sunday, September 11th at Red Bull Arena, 1pm ET Kickoff

TV/Streaming: ESPN/Watch ESPN

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

Referee: Jair Marrufo

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

New York: 43 points from 28 gms, 47GF/35GA,  t-2nd in East, t-5th in MLS, DWDWW

DC United: 32 points from 27 gms, 35GF/36GA,  7th in East, t-13th in MLS, WDDWL


Projected Lineups

New York

NYvDC

DC United

DCvNY


The New York attack versus the DCU back line

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

BWP scored in the 2-2 draw at RFK just eighteen days ago on a nifty volley. Wright-Phillips is in red-hot form, with eight goals and three assists in his last nine matches. DC’s back line crumbled late in Yankee Stadium on September 1, allowing three goals after the 79′ minute, including the dagger in injury time. Taylor Kemp is back in the DC lineup after sitting out the NYCFC match with an injured toe. Steve Birnbaum returns after US National Team duty. Bill Hamid has a 1.77 GAA in thirteen league matches against New York. DC United has conceded six times in their last three matches.

Advantage: New York


The United forward versus the Red Bulls’ defense

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

Patrick Mullins has been on fire with DC since his release from the Bronx on July 20th. The Hermann award winner had a hat trick in a 6-2 mauling of Chicago at RFK on August 27th, and scored in the 2-2 draw with New York in DC.  Mullins’ goal marked the last time that New York conceded, a stretch of 197 game minutes. The Red Bulls get Kemar Lawrence back after his time with Jamaica, which failed to advance to the CONCACAF Hexagonal. Collin and Zubar have led New York on their ten-match undefeated run. Zubar is finally off of yellow card warning, having successfully played four straight matches without being carded. Luis Robles‘ nine shutouts are tops in MLS in 2016. Robles boasts a GAA of 0.91 in eleven league matches v. DC United.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Midfields

Gonzalo Veron, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe, and Daniel Royer. vs. Patrick Nyarko, Lamar Neagle, Rob Vincent, Marcelo Sarvas, and Lloyd Sam

In the slop of post rainstorm-RFK in late August, the Red Bulls were unable to effectively play their high-press game.  Of greater concern to Jesse Marsch is that both of his starting wings, Mike Grella and Alex Muyl, are out with yellow card suspensions. Marsch will throw much maligned Veron out on the left, giving the Argentine DP yet another chance to impress the coach and fan base. Sunday will be Royer’s first start, who’s yet to truly show in a New York uniform. McCarty looked good in Vancouver and will be in even better shape on Sunday. Sacha Kljestan, who had the best USMNT experience (over 18 category) this week, returns to the middle for the Red Bulls. DC United assist leader Luciano Acosta (3G/8A) is out with yellow cards, and scoring leader Lamar Neagle (5G/4A) should take his place as playmaker. A major focus for Sunday’s match is the return of Lloyd Sam to Red Bull Arena. Sam scored in DC’s loss to NYC last time out.

Advantage: New York


The Coaches

Jesse Marsch has his team humming along, undefeated in twelve matches across all competitions. The Red Bulls are undefeated at home since April, and are riding the league’s scoring leader and assist leader toward the top of the East. Ben Olsen comes into this match with his team below the line with seven matches to play. Should they miss the postseason, capturing the Atlantic Cup would make a difficult year more palatable to DC United fans.

Advantage: New York


Intangibles

DC United is 1-5-7 on the road with a -10 goal differential. New York is 10-2-1 at home with a +16 differential. The Red Bulls have only allowed eleven goals in Harrison this season, and only two since April 24th. New York has reached the ten-victory mark at home for the fifth straight season, and the sixth time in seven seasons since moving to Red Bull Arena. DC United has a 1-0-1 record and a +2 GAA in this year’s Atlantic Cup competition. A two-goal New York win would retain the cup. Anything less, and the trophy shifts to DC. Skies will be clear and temperatures will be in the low eighties at kickoff. The 1pm start, coinciding with NFL kickoffs (the Jets are playing at MetLife) and the first big weekend of youth soccer, will create a ton of empty seats at RBA. As always, both clubs’ supporters will be in full voice.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:

DC is a better club that the New England team that held the Red Bulls to a narrow one-nil victory in the New York’s last home match. Given the rivalry, and DC’s position out of playoff position, expect a massive effort from the visitors. The new wingers will create a lack of balance for New York going forward, but the class of Kljestan and BWP will be enough in a 2-1 Red Bulls victory.