Preview: New York Red Bulls v Seattle Sounders

IMAGE, NEW YORK RED BULLS FACEBOOK

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

Red Bulls coach Mike Petke decided to roll the dice on his team’s CONCACAF Champions League campaign by resting all eleven starters Wednesday night to prepare them for Saturday’s clash with US Open Cup Champion and top MLS side Seattle.  The Sounders are coming off of the midweek US Open Cup final at Philadelphia where the team needed 120 minutes to claim their fourth title in six years.

Many Seattle starters played the entire match, creating speculation that New York may not face a full-strength Sounders side at Red Bull Arena. Nevertheless, both teams have plenty to play for as Seattle seeks its first-ever Supporters Shield, and New York continues its drive for a fifth-straight playoff berth.

Match Information:
Saturday, September 20th at Red Bull Arena, 7:30p ET kickoff, TV: NBCSN

Referee: Alan Kelly

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:

New York, 38 points from 28 matches, 44GF/41GA, 4th in the East, 8th in MLS, WLWWD
Seattle, 54 points from 27 matches, 51GF/37GA, 1st in the West, 1st in MLS, DWWWW

[colored_box color=”red”]Note: Red Bulls fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 7:15pm for a presentation by Mike Petke and a stellar tifo from the South Ward. Unlike most matches that are televised by NBCSN, there won’t be a 15-minute pre-game show. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:31pm.[/colored_box]


 

Seattle’s front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:
Chad Barrett and Obafemi Martins vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Armando, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).

Barrett and Martins each played 60 minutes and each scored a goal in the USOC Final.  As Clint Dempsey played the full match, look for the United States Captain to enter the match late to spell Barrett.  Martins upped his impressive 2013 league debut through his partnership with Dempsey.  The Nigerian’s 13 goals and nine assists place him sixth on the league’s scoring chart. The red-hot Martins has scored four times in his last three matches in all competitions. Barrett has been very effective as the Sounders’ third attacker, picking up 7 goals and an assist on the season, his most since his 2011 campaign with LA.  New York’s top back line was very much in need of a rest after conceding in injury time to Philadelphia last weekend.  Of course, if Sekagya had hit that last ball first-time, New York would have walked out of PPL Park with all three points.  New York must play cleanly Saturday as three members of the back line: Olave, Armando, and Sekagya face suspension should any of them pick up a yellow card.  New York must play tighter after scoring, after conceding goals immediately after putting the ball in the net in two of their last three league matches.

Advantage: Seattle


 

New York’s attackers vs. the Sounders defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Jalil Anibaba, Zach Scott, Djimi Traore and DeAndre Yedlin (and Stefan Frei).

If BWP has recovered from his hamstring pull, he’ll play. By all indications, that seems to be the case. Otherwise, Tim Cahill gets another shot up top.  The Australian was less than proficient as the lone striker in Philadelphia.  If it is Cahill up top, perhaps Petke shifts Henry from the 4-2-3-1 left mid back to a 4-4-2 formation.  The Sounders’ defense will be shuffled as all four starting defenders played the entire match Tuesday night.  Chad Marshall, a popular Thierry Henry target, gets a rest and Djimi Traore (12 appearances) plays in his stead.  Also, Leo Gonzalez is replaced by Jalil Anibaba (10 caps).  Tottenham-owned speedster Yedlin (who has yet to score this season, Red Bulls fans), will match up against Thierry Henry.  Despite Frei’s 17-7-3 record and eight shutouts is his good-but-not-great 1.37 goals against average. The Swiss keeper has a knack for giving up goals from distance, so the Red Bulls will surely take more shots at him from outside the box.

Advantage: Even


 

The Midfields:

Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam v Andy Rose, Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa, and Michael Azira.

Though Alexander (11 minutes) and McCarty (8 minutes) saw time in Montreal, they’ll be fresh and ready to go, along with the other rested Red Bull midfielders.  Henry will not only have his hands full trying to move around Yedlin, he’ll need to get back and defend against one of the fastest men in MLS as well.  Luyindula must move the ball faster if New York is going to score goals. Last week at PPL Park, the Union was successful in disrupting the Frenchman by quickly sending two or three players at him, causing Luyindula to cough up the ball with regularity.  Seattle was able to capture the US Open Cup without long shifts from longtime Red Bull thorn Marco Pappa (46 minutes on Tuesday) or Mexican International Gonzalo Pineda (26 minutes).  After five productive years in Chicago, Pappa (3G/3A) spent a season with Heerenveen in Holland before returning to MLS. Pineda (3G/7A) played in the 2006 World Cup with Mexico and has been a great addition to the Sounders this season. Azira didn’t play on Tuesday, though Andy Rose played the entire match.

Slight Advantage: Seattle


 

The Coaches:
Sigi Schmid has to be second in the US Soccer coaching pantheon behind Bruce Arena, and the Seattle skipper has the club headed towards an unprecedented MLS “triple” (sorry, Anglophiles) of US Open Cup, Supporters Shield, and MLS Cup.  Schmid is blessed to coach at a club with deep pockets and rabid, city-wide support. Despite the loss in Montreal, Petke has his team picking up results.  While no one would confuse New York with an elite team, a 2-1-1 record so far during the September death march is a positive. Petke is making do with his talented, older team.

Advantage: Seattle


Intangibles:

New York is 1-1-2 against Seattle at Red Bull Arena, and has not beaten the Sounders since a Juan Agudelo goal gave the Red Bulls a 1-0 win on March 19th, 2011. Thierry Henry has yet to score against the Sounders, one of only two MLS teams that he hasn’t scored on. The other is Vancouver.  New York is averaging 2.2 goals scored per match at home, Seattle 1.8 goals per road match. The Red Bulls are expecting a sold-out crowd tomorrow night, and New York is 8-1-3 in matches at Red Bull Arena when the stadium is full. While the Red Bulls can’t climb to third place with a win, the team can find itself below the red line with a loss or draw and wins by Columbus (home v NE) and Philadelphia (home v HOU). Tomorrow’s weather report is lovely, with partly cloudy skies and a temperature falling through seventy degrees at kickoff.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:
Both teams need Saturday’s match: Seattle to extend their lead in the Shield race, and New York to continue to push towards a playoff spot.  The Sounders will play with a hybrid squad and will be coming down from an emotional, extended title match.  Of course, nothing about the Red Bulls comes easily, and New York will have to fight and scratch to get a positive result. Saturday will be an entertaining goalfest, with a late decider by BWP the difference.  New York wins, 3-2, but yellow cards to Olave and Sekagya will create havoc with plans for the LA match on the 28th.