Preview: Red Bulls at Antigua GFC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

New York booked their tickets to the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday night and they can do the same to the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage with a result against Antigua GFC on Tuesday.

Depth has been a key factor for the Red Bulls who have suffered injuries yet replaced players with minimal disruption. Shawn Wright-Phillips, Gonzalo Veron and Mike Grella should see significant minutes. Aaron Long, who was officially added to the first team MLS roster, has also provided a much needed break to New York’s backline during this competition.


STARTING XI:

New York Red Bulls: Meara; Lawrence, Long, Zubar, Zizzo; Davis, Felipe; Grella, S. Wright-Phillips, Kljestan; Veron

Player to Watch: Jesse Marsch has been singing the praises of Gonzalo Veron lately and even went out of his way to mention his regret in not getting him into the recent MLS game against Montreal. He should be well rested for the trip to Guatemala and act as the main striking option for New York. While the goal scoring hasn’t flowed for Veron, he has been an essential part in Red Bulls’ success in CCL play with tremendous ball control. Look for Veron to have a breakout performance.

X-Factor: Internal competition. New York Red Bulls’ MLS roster is one of the most competitive in the league and a good performance in CCL play could be the difference in future consideration. Players like Mike Grella and Gonzalo Veron have been watching from the sidelines more often lately and could see their fortunes change in MLS selection with strong showings.


A win or draw for New York will see them through to the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in their history. Jesse Marsch has certainly lived up to his word of taking all competitions seriously, expanding the team’s depth and tackling these matches with intent.

Defensively New York has been solid in CCL play — just one goal allowed in three games with two shutouts at home. Players like Aaron Long and Ryan Meara have done their part to keep New York’s defensive record sparkling. Should they do it again, New York will see themselves through to the next round.

The only issue could be the team’s road form. New York has only won two games on the road all season and has a tendency to let leads slip. The game against Antigua stands as another chance for the defense to gain a bit more confidence heading into the MLS Cup Playoffs.