Preview: New York Red Bulls at DC United

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

BY MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

With wins in MLS and the CCL under its belt, the New York Red Bulls head to RFK to face DC United in a statement game of sorts. 

Though New York has collected seven wins to date, only two (Dallas, Columbus) have come against teams ahead of the Red Bulls in the standings.  As New York preps to embark on its 22-day, seven-match odyssey, the team has the opportunity to show the MLS world that they will be a contender come playoff time.

Match Information:
Sunday, August 31st at RFK Stadium, 2:30p ET kickoff, TV: NBCSN

Referee: Jair Marruffo

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
DC United, 43 points from 25 matches, 40GF/30GA, 1st in the East, t-2nd in MLS, LLWWL
New York, 31 points from 24 matches, 39GF/36GA, 5th in the East, 10th in MLS, DDLWL

DC United’s front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:
Fabian Espindola vs. Roy Miller, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
At Even with the success that DC’s had this season, there’s nothing more that Espindola would like to do than punish the team that benched him down the stretch of last season’s Shield run.  Espi’s nine goals and eight assists lead DC, on a team with seven multi-goal scorers.  Eddie Johnson (4g/2a) will be available off the bench as Espi went sixty-one minutes on Wednesday.  New York’s defense suffered two bad breakdowns last week against Montreal, and the Impact punished the Red Bulls on each one. Still, both Miller and Duvall threw themselves forward regularly to create chances, while Sekagya (Despite Perrinelle’s strong play v CD FAS) seems to have locked down the second centerback role.  It’s been nine matches since Luis Robles has posted a shutout, and with DC’s potent attack, a clean sheet seems unlikely on Sunday.
Advantage: Even

New York’s attackers vs. DC’s defense:
Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Taylor Kemp, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and Sean Franklin (and Bill Hamid).
New York’s all-time single-season scoring leader, with ten matches remaining, turns his focus towards the all-time MLS mark of 27. Both BWP and Thierry Henry are operating on the same wavelength, as the two put on a clinic in the second half against MontrealFour days after shutting out Kansas City at Sporting Park, DC’s defense was shelled at Los Angeles on Wednesday night, allowing four goals to the Galaxy.  LA’s third goal came after a 26-pass buildup that made United look like an amateur team.  Tired, and perhaps a bit dejected, veterans Franklin and Boswell (each with a goal and two assists) will look to calm down young players Kemp and BirnbaumBill Hamid keeps getting spoken about as a contender for US duty down the road, but his inconsistency of late has rightly raised plenty of questions.
 Slight Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Chris Rolfe, Perry Kitchen, Luis Silva, Davy Arnaud, and Nick DeLeon vs Ambroise Oyongo, Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, and Lloyd Sam. 
Despite a frustrating trip to the West Coast, Luis Silva (7g/4a) has had a superb season playing as central attacking mid/second forward.  Pickups Rolfe (6g/6a) and Davy Arnaud (2g), who scored in DC’s 1-0 win against New York on April 12th, provide lots of experience and guidance for the side’s younger players.  Kitchen (4g/3a) is maturing quickly into USMNT consideration. New York’s midfield created plenty of offensive changes against Montreal, and Tim Cahill took a leadership role in the Red Bulls’ Tuesday CCL win against CD FAS.  While the Aussie has yet to find his groove this season, he seems happy to work his way out of his funk.  Alexander played the first hour against Montreal, but the New York attack changed for the better when Oyongo entered the match thirty minutes from time, when the Red Bulls put the match away with three goals. Dax McCarty has a goal and an assist over his last three matches. He had been without a point in his previous eight.  
Slight Advantage: DC United

The Coaches:
Last season he was trash, this season he’s a genius.  That’s the Ben Olsen story. DC has collected ten more wins this season than last, and that’s with nine matches to go for his side.  Yes, Olsen has a re-tooled team at his disposal, but give credit to DC ownership for giving the former player time to grow into his role.  With his team having lost three of its last five matches, Olsen must juggle his lineup & motivate his players to get up for this rivalry match.  Mike Petke has his team on a positive run of late (4-1-2) across all competitions and exhibitions.  The club’s ever CCL win was something to celebrate, and Petke successfully mixed first and second-team players in the midweek game, leaving plenty in the tank for Sunday. 
Advantage: Even

Intangibles:

Sunday’s match will be a year to the day from New York’s last win vs DC, a 2-1 victory at RBA.  The Red Bulls’ last win at RFK was a 2-0 win last April 13th.  A win by New York would make August the club’s most production MLS month this season (9 points). DC is 7-2-3 at RFK this season, the losses to Columbus and Seattle.  New York is 10-24-6 all-time at RFK.  Ten DC United players have collected at least two assists this season.  No current Red Bulls are among the top five all-time scorers versus DC United, but Henry has four goals against DC, and Cahill, Sam, and Olave each have one.  Sunday is the first of two meetings with DC in eleven days as United visits Red Bull Arena on September 10th.  The weather will be brutal on Sunday, with a high of 94 degrees and a 50% chance of Thunderstorms
Advantage: Even

Prediction:
DC got a lesson from Los Angeles on Wednesday, and with a continental trip this week, surely will wilt in the August heat.  BWP and Henry on eight days’ rest, and Sam and McCarty playing only a handful of minutes on Tuesday, New York’s offensive core should be fresh.  DC will score goals, but the Red Bulls will score more in a scrappy 3-2 victory.