Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Red Bulls Tonight: Opportunity Knocks

Without playmaker Amado Guevara, the Red Bulls didn't look all that great during Saturday's 1-0 win versus Columbus. Guevara and newly-signed midfielder Markus Schopp will be on the field tonight in the Toro Rossos' key match vs. New England at the Swamp (7:30pm on FSNY and FSNE). Here's how the Eastern Conference currently stands:

Team, Pts, GD, (matches to play)
1. X - DC United, 51 +16 (3h/1a)
2. Chicago, 41, +4 (2h/2a)
3. New England, 35, -2 (3h/2a)
4. Kansas City, 33, -2 (2h/2a)
5. New York, 32, +2 (3h/2a)
6. Columbus, 26, -16 (3h/1a)

With a win, New York can leap frog over idle Kansas City and the Revs into third place in the Eastern standings. Here's a breakdown of tonight's key matchups:

The New England forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Jose Manuel Abundis and Taylor Twellman vs. Jeff Parke, Marvell Wynne, Seth Stammler, and Todd Dunivant (and Jon Conway). Former Mexican NT player Abundis should get his first start for the Revs. New England's Dempsey and Twellman (14 goals between them) have not been as productive as in past years due to Dempsey's absence for World Cup duty. Much has been made about Dempsey's desire to leave MLS for Europe, and while Deuce did hit the net in the Revs' last match vs. DC, it was only his first MLS goal since July 4th. The Revs have only scored three goals in their last six league games. The Red Bulls have been decent on defense of late, allowing only six goals in the club's last seven matches. Dunivant's return from an injury should lift the club. New York's Carlos Mendes is out with yellow card points. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. The Revs' defense:
John Wolyniec and Edson Buddle vs. Avery John, Michael Parkhurst, and Jay Heaps (and Matt Reis). Despite Wolyniec's tenacity and Buddle's skill, Red Bull fans know that striker is one position that Coach Bruce Arena will be looking to improve for next season. Mike Magee is out serving a suspension, so look to last week's teen hero, Jozy Altidore, to come off the bench to deliver a late spark. Remove New England's embarrassing 0-3 loss at Columbus on September 2nd, and the Revs have allowed two goals in their last five games. Note that only I may find interesting: Jay Heaps has appeared in 226 league matches. Amazing. Advantage: New England

The Midfielders:
New York's Markus Schopp, Dema Kovalenko, Amado Guevara, and Youri Djorkaeff vs. New England's Troll Franchino, Andy Dorman, Clint Dempsey, Jeff Larentowicz, and Steve Ralston. With the UN General Assembly gathered in New York, it's appropriate that the Red Bulls go with all-international midfield. The 6'2" Schopp certainly won't be at 100% in d-mid in his first MLS game (Danny O'Rourke may play depending on Schopp's fitness). Dempsey moves to midfield for the injured Shalrie Joseph. The Revs midfield (short of Larentowicz) is a veteran solid group that's played as a unit all season long. Advantage: New England

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena vs. Steve Nicol. After watching and listening to Il Bruce these last few weeks, one surmises that NY is mailing in this season ahead of a major retooling in 2007. Still, it has been an historic week in Red Bulls history, and perhaps Arena will push his team hard. Nicol is Scottish, yes, but his team is only 2-2-5 in its last nine MLS games. Advantage: Push

New York has a two-year reprieve on hearing "60-90 days"... until inevitable weather delays hold up the opening of Red Bull Park in the Summer of 2008. At least the Revs will be playing in front of thousands of empty seats instead of a massive blue tarp. Advantage: New York

The Prediction: The lack of cohesion between the Red Bull midfielders will give the Revs the advantage. New England wins, 1-0.

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