After a gutty 2-1 road win at FC Goldenballs, the New York Red Bulls find themselves on a four-match unbeaten streak heading into Saturday night's test with a Kansas City Wizards (3-3-1) squad looking for its first points since April 20th. New York (3-1-2) will take the field for the second straight outing without injured Captain Claudio Reyna or D-mid Seth Stammler, though their replacements, Mike Magee and rookie Luke Sassano, carried the load well in last week's victory.
The Wizards have cooled since their strong start, and have won only once in their last five matches, scoring just three goals over that span. Will KC's talented Argentines be able to break through NY's second-ranked defense? Therein lies the storyline for tomorrow night.
Position and Recent Form:
New York, 11 pts from 6 matches, 4th East, LTWTW
Kansas City, 10 pts from 7 matches, 6th East, LTWLL
Here's a line-by-line look at Saturday's match:
The Kansas City forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Claudio Lopez and Ivan Trujillo vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Hunter Freeman (and Jon Conway). Wizards fans were celebrating when the club brought in Lopez from the Colombia and Truilljo from Argentina to create an energetic attack. However, the KC strike force has been off target for weeks as they learn to play together. The Wizards have only a single tally from the run of play (along with a pair of PKs) in their last five outings. Much has been written about the Red Bulls' buy-in to coach Osorio's defense-first mindset, as New York has allowed only five goals in six matches this season. JCO's tendency to shift midfielder Dave van den Burgh to a d-wing position will present an even tougher challenge to KC. Advantage: New York
New York's attackers vs. the Galaxy defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Michael Harrington, Tyson Wahl, Jimmy Conrad and Chance Myers (and Kevin Hartman). The look on Angel's face after scoring his first of the year, the game-winner in LA last week, offered a clue into the Colombian's frustration to date this young season. Neither he nor Altidore, who's been nothing less than a punching bag for opposing defenses, are 100%, but they'll still be quite a handful for KC. The Wizards have allowed a pair of goals in each the team's last two outings, at TFC and at the Crew. That Conrad is tied for the team lead in goals scored is bizzare. Hartman is graying (33), but is still a quality MLS keeper. Advantage: New York
Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Mike Magee, Danleigh Borman and Dave van den Bergh, vs. Sasha Victorine, Kurt Morsink, Jack Jewsbury, and Eloy Colombiano. Say what you will about Richards' inability to deliver a cross, but his sweet delivery on Angel's game winner last week was pure football poetry. Magee proved his worth at A-mid, and Sassano and Borman have to be considered for Rookie of the Year honors. Argentine Eloy Colombiano (hmm) is a newcomer who'll make his second MLS start tomorrow night. Victorine is blah, but Jewsbury is always dangerous. Slight Advantage: New York
I have nothing but respect for KC coach Curt Onalfo, a youth star who co-captained the US U20s to a 4th-place finish at the '89 U20 World Cup, was an MLS original (LA, SJ, DC), and served as US assistant coach during the last qualifying cycle. He's a definite future candidate to helm the USMNT. Juan Carlos Osorio clearly has won the respect of his players, and their play shows in terms of effort. Advantage: Push
When you share a stadium with a baseball team called the Kansas City T-Bones, a long road trip is inevitable. KC is will play game four of a six-match road trip tomorrow night, and it'll clearly show. New York comes home for the first time since April 27th, and while a large crowd may not be in the offing if the weather is poor (and even if it isn't), I believe that home cooking will do the team some good. Advantage: New York
Prediction: This is one of those games that is the Red Bulls' for the taking, but Altidore & Angel will have to be sharp and capitalize on their opportunities. Jewsbury will score on a fluky goal, but Angel and Magee will be the difference in a 2-1 victory.