Preview: New York Red Bulls host DC United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

The New York Red Bulls ride into Harrison this weekend with an encouraging 1-0 lead over DC United, thanks to their victory at RFK last Sunday.

But the battle doesn’t end there.

DC will be seeking revenge after a disappointing showing at home. Bobby Boswell returns to the lineup for United, and with a week off, DC will also be rested for the encounter — a departure from their fitness in the first leg. However, Chris Pontius and Sean Franklin have not trained with DC all week long, likely signaling their absence against New York.

With New York scoring a vital away goal, DC will have a lot of pressure to score — and score often. That won’t be easy at Red Bull Arena where DC have struggled to score a single goal in two outings against the Red Bulls


PROJECTED STARTING XI:

RBNY (4-2-3-1): Robles; Zizzo, Zubar, Miazga, Lawrence; McCarty, Felipe; Sam, Kljestan, Grella; BWP

DC United (4-4-2): Hamid; Korb, Birnbaum, Boswell, Kemp; Saborio, Kitchen, Halsti, DeLeon; Rolfe, Espindola

HISTORY: All-Time: 24 RBNY wins, 33 DC wins, 10 draws, 2015: 2-0-1 advantage Red Bulls, RBA 2015: 2-0 Red Bulls (outscored DC 5-0)

BATTLE TO WATCH: Korb, Kemp vs. Sam, Grella. With Franklin likely out of this encounter, DC will be counting on their depth options to perform. That will give New York a slight advantage on the flanks where Sam and Grella have been a constant for the club.

X-FACTOR: The Rivalry. While Red Bull fans still talk about their 2012 playoff ouster at the hands of DC, United fans have 2014’s playoff ouster fresh in their memory. This rivalry is always filled with twists and turns. This weekend’s encounter will likely supply drama to an already historic rivalry.


ANALYSIS

“Benny Ball” has several defining characteristics. The counter attack. Defensive responsibility. Two way play on all sides of the ball. Ruthless aggression.

New York saw much of that at RFK last weekend — especially the physical aspect of the game. Coach Ben Olsen is already fanning the flames of his team’s rancor, publicly denouncing an MLS Disciplinary Committee decision to forgo punishment on a suspect Ronald Zubar challenge in the first leg.

In total, expect DC to come out red-hot this weekend at Red Bull Arena.

For Marsch and his men, it will be business as usual. By now, the finer aspects of the Red Bull attack are well known, and the men who deploy that strategy are firmly entrenched in their assignments.

One clear concern for New York will be their defensive stance without Damien Perrinelle. The French veteran has been a rock for New York on their backline all season long. Ronald Zubar, the former heir apparent to Jamison Olave, has suffered an injury riddled campaign and his time with Matt Miazga has been sparse. With Felipe and Dax McCarty completing the four-man defensive block down the heart of New York’s lineup, Zubar will have plenty of backup as he finds his starting legs.

While one can expect a tight match, the Red Bulls still match up well against DC. United’s health issues won’t help on that end, either. Expect another Red Bull romp at Red Bull Arena, with New York taking a 3-1 win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.