Friday, June 15, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Match #12 vs. Wizzzz

New York (6-3-2) stumbled through a 1-2 road trip last week in KC, Toronto, and DC, gave up 8 goals in three games, and removed the air of invincibility, even adequacy around the club. The Red Bulls' leaky defense was tattooed by Eddie Johnson and Ben Olsen, allowing both to win Player of the Week honors after each scored hat tricks vs. New York. Coach (pardon, Sporting Director) Bruce Arena admitted after Sunday's 4-2 loss in DC that he had rushed first-team keeper Ronald Waterreus back into the lineup too soon.

Kansas City (6-2-1) hasn't played in two weeks, since the Wizards beat the Red Bulls 3-2 in Arrowhead on Eddie Johnson's three scores. EJ is with the National team, though, which will provides a challenge for KC. The two sides meet Saturday at 7:30 pm ET at Giants Stadium (FSNY, DK).

Recent Form:
New York: WWLWL
Kansas City: WLDWW

Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect:

The Kansas City forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Scott Sealy and Carlos Marinelli vs. Seth Stammler, Taylor Graham, Carlos Mendes, and Markus Schopp (and Ronald Wattereus). Last Sunday in DC, United consistently beat the Red Bulls' patchwork defense with diagonal runs off the ball. Speedy Scott Sealy (20 MLS goals in 60 appearances) and the technical Marinelli (2 assists in 6 apps.) will make things tough on Graham and Schopp, who aren't known for their speed. The key question: which Walrus will show up in goal for New York? The one that gave up a single goal in his first five starts, or the one that allowed four tallies his last time out? Advantage: Kansas City

New York's attackers vs. the Wizards' defense:
Juan Pablo Angel vs. Jose Burciaga, Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, and Jack Jewsbury (and Kevin Hartman). KC's healthy first-line defense is experienced (avg: 146 MLS caps) and solid (0.75 GAA). Hartman is still in good form. What more can be said about New York's Juan Pablo Angel? Seven goals in his first six MLS matches. Scores off of free kicks, from individual efforts, even cleaning up the garbage in front of the net. Until defenses learn how to slow him down, he'll be the most lethal (sorry, EJ fans) striker in MLS. Advantage: Push

The Midfields:
Dema Kovalenko, Claudio Reyna, Dave van den Bergh, Clint Mathis and Dane Richards vs. Michael Harrington, Sasha Victorine, Kerry Zavagnin, and Davy Arnaud. To date this season, the Wizards' midfield has accounted for five of KC's 20 goals. Harrington (2g, 3a) is a Rookie of the year candidate, and Arnaud's scoring touch (2g, 3a) seems to have returned. New York hasn't figured out how best to use Clint and Claudio together. New York is 1-3-1, including the USOC loss at LA, when the two start a match together. Of course, New York could be helped if Mathis avoids a red card this time out. The Wizards, of course, won't have EJ to feed tomorrow night. Slight Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Bruce Arena has some problems. His back line is a hospital ward, and he's about to lose promising Jozy Altidore (3g, 3a) to the US U-20 team for a month. With an other three-match road trip looming after tomorrow night, Bruce needs all the points tomorrow, badly. Curt Onalfo will have to replace the man who's scored nearly half of his team's goals, but on the road, the pressure to win is on the other guys. Advantage: Kansas City

As long as Angel continues his goal-a-game pace, New York should be considered the favorite at home. Hopefully the word of the Red Bulls' strong start will attract a decent crowd (10,000+) for New York's only home appearance in a an eight-week stretch. Weather should be good, though thunderstorms may be possible. Advantage: Push

Prediction: The Wizards' Sealy should fly on the turf at Giants Stadium. If Mathis & Reyna click tomorrow, things could fall New York's way. A deep KC squad, powered by Marinelli, accomplishes the mission on the road. A 1-1 draw.

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