How to come back from a beatdown? That's the question facing the New York Red Bulls (3-2-3) as they travel to Houston to take on the two-time defending MLS Cup Champion Dynamo (2-3-5) on Saturday night (8:30p, HDNet). After last Sunday's 5-1 home loss to Chicago, Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke noted that practice was like "walking on egg shells." However, New York is catching Houston at just the right time.
Star keeper Pat Onstad and super midfielder Dwayne DeRosario are away with the Canadian national team, and former Metro Rico Clark is with Bob Bradley's US squad. Defender Wade Barrett is doubtful with an adductor strain, so Houston, which has had a rough start to the season, will be without many key pieces.
New York's Claudio Reyna will miss his third of four matches, and midfielder Dave van den Burgh won't make the trip, as his wife is expecting birth of their second child. Regardless of the personnel on the field, the Red Bulls need points, as the Eastern Conference leaders (NE, CHI, CMB) have begun to pull away from the pack.
Position and Recent Form:
Houston, 11 pts from 10 matches, 5th West, TWWLT
New York, 12 pts from 8 matches, 5th East, WTWTL
Here's a line-by-line look at Saturday's match:
The Houston forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Kyle Brown and Brian Ching vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Hunter Freeman (and Jon Conway). Sub Brown went 58 minutes in the Dynamo's 2-2 draw at Dallas on Wednesday. He's scored twice in 23 league appearances, but Houston's scoring threat is with Ching, who could have come in handy in the US' 2-0 loss to England this week. Ching's ability to score with his head will be crucial on dead-ball situations. For New York, the name of the game is confidence, which was invisible in last weeks' demolition by the Fire. With the right attitude, and Parke's handling of Ching, the Red Bulls could return to their stingy ways. Advantage: Push
New York's attackers vs. the Dynamo defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Richard Mulrooney, Patrick Ianni, Bobby Boswell, and Geoff Cameron (and Tony Caig). Is Jozy Altidore tired? Distracted? He's certainly leads New York in frustration as MLS defenses key on him. If he's ready to make his move to Europe, a breakout performance won't hurt. Houston is giving up 1.5 goals/match, and a third of their goals conceded are from outside the penalty area. With Caig in net, there could be more. Advantage: New York
Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Mike Magee, Seth Stammler and Danleigh Borman, vs. Brian Mullan, Brad Davis, Stuart Holden, and Corey Ashe. The return of Stammler to the Red Bulls lineup after three matches nursing a bad back will settle the club from the d-mid position. Richards will have to neutralize the equally speedy Ashe, who helped set up Houston's injury-time goal in Dallas, allwing Houston to escape PHP with a draw. Former Metro Davis always relishes playing New York. Mullan will have his handful in Borman on the left side. Advantage: Push
Dom Kinnear has done in all in American Soccer: National team player, original member of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and MLS Cup winning coach. He's walked it and talked it, and questionable lineup or not, his club will be ready. Juan Carlos Osorio has his first true coaching challenge for the season: getting his club to erase last week's performance from its memory, and focus on the task at hand. He really needs better players. Advantage: Houston
With Mark Cuban's HDNet the exclusive television outlet for tomorrow night's match, a large walk-up crowd will create a big advantage at Robertson Stadium. With a daytime high temp of 92 degrees, expect a hot night that'll be helpful to NY's younger legs. Advantage: Push
Prediction: The Red Bulls simply have to take advantage of the holes in Houston's lineup to deliver a victory against a weaker opponent. Houston will be fine in the weak, weak MLS West and will be playing for a draw from the outset. Angel and Altidore both score a 2-0 New York win.
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