Preview: Recovering Red Bulls Host Hobbled RSL

Matt Kremkau

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

The New York Red Bulls return home after a crushing loss at the Seattle Sounders last week to play a coach-less Real Salt Lake team that is in search of its first win of the Major League Soccer season. The firing of Jeff Cassar and the team’s beleaguered start to the season makes it welcome opponents as New York looks to restart at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon.

But the Red Bulls (2-1, 6 points) will be without the captain Sacha Kljestan, who is with the United States national team for World Cup qualifying matches. More than likely Mike Grella will slot into the left wing. That still leaves a creative void in the center of the midfield. Grella has shown flashes but has seen his playing time decline since midway through the 2016 season. The only other option would be Alex Muyl, who appears more comfortable and productive as a striker than as a midfield playmaker.

The defense is also a question for New York. Both Damien Perrinelle and Aaron Long made some costly, poor decisions in the 3-1 loss to the Sounders. The strategy to play a high back line left the Red Bull defense in an awkward position when defending against the counter. While Real Salt Lake (0-2-1, 1 point) doesn’t have Seattle’s explosive forward, it is still capable of getting up field and disrupting a New York back line that has been extremely shaky to start 2017.

Probable Starting XI’s:

Red Bulls: Robles; Zizzo, Perrinelle, Long, Lawrence; Grella, Felipe, Davis, Royer; Wright-Phillips, Gulbrandsen

Real Salt Lake: VanOekel; Beltran, Schuler, Schmidt, Phillips; Mulholland, Sunny; Lennon, Silva, Saucedo; Movsisyan

Player to Watch: Fredrik Gulbrandsen was thrown into the lion’s den last week, but despite his team’s lack of creativity he played well. His physical play was the type needed to draw attention away from Bradley Wright-Phillips. As he begins to settle in after his recent move to New York, Gulbrandsen could be one of the key players in the game, and for the Red Bulls the rest of the season.

X-Factor: Coach Jesse Marsch was away taking a UEFA coaching class this week. Marsch’s absence combined with players leaving for international duty possibly could have an impact on the Red Bulls’ focus.

Where to Watch: Saturday March 4, 4 p.m.; MLS Live and Unimás.