Just three days after a grueling 0-0 draw against the Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United is set to square off against the New York Red Bulls tomorrow afternoon. The Loons have gone a full month without winning a game in MLS, and will be looking to secure a result against a New York side that has won each of its last four games across all competitions and sits in fifth place in the Eastern conference.
In order to better understand our opponents, Tzvi Machlin, who writes for Once a Metro, answered three of our questions about what to expect from the Red Bulls prior to Saturdays matinee at 3:00 PM. He also provided us with a projected starting lineup and updates on the team’s injury report and international call-ups.
E Pluribus Loonum: The Red Bulls have won two out of their last three road games after managing to win just one out of their first six road tilts earlier this season. Has the team turned a corner? Have you noticed any changes to their recent play away from Red Bull Arena?
Once A Metro: Actually, if you count our US Open Cup win over New England, it's been two in a row and three of the last four (but who's counting, right?). It's hard to really say that the team has turned a corner given that we've beaten teams who were especially vulnerable due to timely injuries, suspensions or international duty.
What I can say about their recent form on the road is that HC Jesse Marsch has been experimenting with a new formation that's so unusual that no two pundits have been able to agree on what to call it - some call it a 3-6-1, others say it's a 5-1-3-1, a 5-3-1-1, a 4-1-2-1-1, a 4-3-2-1, a 3-3-3-1 - nobody knows for sure - but by hook or by crook it's working.
EPL: Even after their 5-1 thrashing of San Jose, the Red Bulls remain as one of the lowest scoring sides in the Eastern Conference. Is the team's attack too reliant on Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer?
OAM: When two players are responsible for over 60% of your goals midway through the season it's easy to say a team relies on them. That said, Wright-Phillips and Royer don't bring a whole lot to the table beyond being able to take lots and lots and lots of shots and hope one or two or three get in the net. Neither one can make anything happen on the breakaway or spot kicks, and neither one can create chances from outside the box. As a result, when the rest of the team is struggling to find the net, players like Sacha Kljestan, AmeriKante, Gonzalo Veron, and others need to create as many chances as possible just so BWP and Royer can pick up the slack. And when that fails the team has no Plan B.
That, of course, is my super long way of answering "kind of." [Also, did you know that the Red Bulls' third leading scorer this season is "Own Goals"?]
EPL: If you were forming Minnesota United's gameplan for Saturday, which areas/threats on New York would you be looking to target or neutralize?
OAM: Defensively, Minnesota will need to neutralize Sacha Kljestan. The Red Bulls are never less effective [than when they’re] in a game where Kljestan can't get the ball. Have a man on him for a full 90 minutes and the Red Bulls' attack will collapse like the Vikings' old roof. Watch out for Gonzalo Veron late in the game though - he's easily the fastest soccer player on the Red Bulls and he's contributed one goal and four assists in just his last 65 minutes on the field.
Offensively, do your best to direct all traffic into the area of defenders Sal Zizzo and/or Damien Perrinelle - those two have been the weak links on defense for most of the season, and if Minnesota can force one of them to take on their attacker one-on-one, your guy will win a large portion of the time.
Predicted Starting XI: (5-1-3-1)
WEEK-TO-WEEK - DF Aurelien Collin
DAY-TO-DAY - DF Connor Lade
International Duty: Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica)
Thanks again to Tzvi for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’re interested in my answers to Once A Metro’s questions, make sure to check them out on their page.