Friday, April 11, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #2 at Steers

After a winning start to the season at home, New York (1-0-0) heads to The Deep Dish for a tussle with FC Dallas (0-0-2) Saturday night (8:30p, MSG, DK).

A lot went right in the Red Bulls' 2-0 victory last week against Columbus. The 3-man backline helped pitch a shutout, the offense scored goals without Jozy Altidore or Dane Richards, and M Luke Sassano went the distance in his first MLS start. Still, there's reason for pause. Centerback Jeff Parke picked up a silly second yellow card in the 81st minute, suspending him for tomorrow. There's also late word that F Juan Pablo Angel won't go in Frisco due to a strained left hamstring. So, with key absences up top and in the back, NY will take on Dallas squad loaded with firepower and itching for a win. Here's a line-by-line look at tomorrow's match:

The Dallas forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Kenny Cooper and Arturo Alvarez vs. Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes, and Kevin Goldthwaite (and Jon Conway). Cooper, who's returned from a horrible knee injury last season in fine form, with a pair of goals in FCD's first two matches. Alvarez had a goal and an assist in the Hoops' 3-3 draw at Houston last week. The key matchup is clearly the 6' 3", 210 lb. Cooper vs. NY's left back, the 6' 1", 180 lb. Kevin Goldthwaite. Shutting down the Crew's lithe forwards are one thing, but Cooper is simply a tank. Mendes has proven solid in the past for the Red Bulls' D. Advantage: Dallas

New York's attackers vs. the Hoops' defense:
Jozy Altidore and Oscar Echeverry vs. Drew Moor, Duilio Davino, and Adrian Serioux (and Dario Sala). Altidore showed he's ready to go after a week off from first team action when he tallied two in a reserve match. Echeverry went 71 productive minutes in his first MLS appearance vs. Columbus. Can the two mesh? Dallas' "Big D" defense (Drew, Duilio, 'Drian and Dario) didn't deliver last week at Houston, giving up three and blowing a lead to the champs in the final minutes. Four goals allowed in two matches = not good. Slight Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Luke Sassano, Seth Stammler, Claudio Reyna, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Dave van den Bergh, vs. Dax McCarty, Pablo Richetti, Juan Toja, Andre Rocha and Blake Wagner. This battle of five-man midfields will hinge on Stammler and Reyna's ability to shut down the mighty Toja, who has 7 goals in 29 MLS appearances. McCarty showed his worth and work rate in helping the US qualify for the Olympics. The Red Bulls' Ubiparipovic needs to last more than a half if he wants to keep his starting job. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
Osorio has won one-in-a-row for NY, and his focus on defense first worked like a charm after scoring two early goals last week. Steve Morrow is overjoyed to have healthy Cooper and Toja back in the lineup. Advantage: Push

New York has started 0-0-3 before, and Dallas wants to avoid the triple-sister-kiss at all costs. Will the crowd show? FCD drew a healthy 17K to their opener vs. Chivas on March 30. New York will make a statement with a win, pulling them even on points with Kansas City and New England, who the Red Bulls have at home next week. Weather will be clear and cold (low of 42, brrr!). Advantage: Push

Prediction: Can Altidore and Echeverry keep pace with the relentless Dallas attack? New York will miss Angel's magic touch as Toja and Cooper steer the Steers past the Bulls, 2-1.

CCC: Good Riddance
For the eighth straight year, no MLS club will win the Concacaf Champions Cup, after both Houston and DC United crashed out in the tourney semifinals on Wednesday. MLS teams usually fall due to their inability to get results on the road, and this year's efforts were no different. DC's 2-0 loss at Pachuca was too big a hill to overcome at RFK, and Houston's D snapped in an 0-3 at Saprissa. MLS teams have been at a disadvantage in the CCC, as the competition's early spring time frame has traditionally overlapped with the league's off-season.

Starting this summer, though, MLS can't use that excuse, as the infant Concacaf Champions League will begin in August. DC, Chivas, New England and Houston will carry the MLS banner in an expanded 24-team competition that will run through next Spring. If the clubs want to win the thing, though, they'll have to learn how to win, or even draw, in Mexico and Costa Rica. Best of luck to them.

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