Preview: Red Bulls Host Rapids in Home Opener

MATT KREMKAU

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

The New York Red Bulls will open the home part of their 2017 Major League Soccer campaign against Colorado at Red Bull Arena on a what is forecast to be a cold Saturday afternoon. The Rapids, the team with the league’s stingiest defense in 2016, shut out the New England Revolution in Week 1.

New York won its season opener last week against newcomers Atlanta United in front of a raucous crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Despite the hostile atmosphere and a slow start, the Red Bulls won on late goals by Daniel Royer and a forced own-goal. Questions still remain about New York’s back line after Aaron Long’s first MLS starts in which he had positives, but also some negatives. The young defender failed to mark forwards at times and seemed unprepared for the speed of play. Still, his communication with goalkeeper Luis Robles helped to secure a tough road win.

Colorado will not allow as many opportunities as Atlanta did, which means New York will need to be far more clinical. Thus far Bradley Wright-Phillips and the rest of the team appear to still be rounding into form. That could be to Colorado’s advantage because it allows few chances at goal and is strong on the counterattack, a vulnerability in the system of Red Bulls Coach Jesse Marsch.


PROJECTED STARTING XI:

Red Bulls: Robles; Lawrence, Long, Collin, Zizzo; Davis, Felipe, Royer, Kljestan; Wright-Phillips, Muyl

Colorado: MacMath; Miller, Watts, Sjoberg, Burch; Cronin, Azira; Hairston, Powers, Badji; Doyle

Player to Watch: Wright-Phillips looked dangerous in Atlanta but has yet to find his goal-scoring touch. Colorado will have a tough time keeping the 2017 Golden Boot winner off the scoreboard.

X-Factor: Long’s growth. He was erratic in his first game, and with Gideon Baah out for the season Marsch will have to rely on Long more than he might have expected. New York has always been susceptible to the counterattack but now, with a rookie center back, its defense may be more vulnerable than expected. Long, 2016 USL Defender of the Year, could provide the energy and speed the defense needs.

Where to Watch: Sunday 4 p.m. Eastern; TV, UniMás and MLS Live