Let's hear it for parity. Despite a five-match league winless streak (seven straight overall), the Red Bulls are only a single point out of a playoff spot with twelve matches to play. Over the last few weeks, the club has brought in help, including Venezuelan international defender Gabriel Chicero, who played 45 minutes with New York in Wednesday's schooling by Barcelona. Along with defender Diego Jimenez, and midfielders Jorge Rojas and Juan Pietrovallo, the new-look Red Bulls hope to get the stretch-run started with a win against rival DC United in the first of three straight home games at Giants Stadium.
Though United crashed out of the SuperLiga with three straight losses, the club has won four of its last five MLS outings, including a 2-0 victory at home vs. Kansas City last week, when MLS all-time goal scoring leader Jaime Moreno, and the rejuvenated Luciano Emilio both scored for DC.
Position, Recent League Form, and playoff position:
New York, 22 pts from 18 matches, 7th East, TLLTT, out of playoffs
DC United 25 pts from 17 matches, 4th East, WWWLW, would face New England in Conf. Semis
Here's a line-by-line look at Sunday's match:
The DC forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Andrew Boyens (and Jon Conway). Emilio (11g) and Moreno (7g) have scored as many goals as the entire Red Bull team this season. Wednesday's thrashing by Barca not included, New York has allowed 10 goals in the Red Bulls' last five league matches. Will New York coach Osorio stick with his three-man back line at home? Perhaps Jimenez and/or Chicero get the starting nod here. Advantage: DC
New York's attackers vs. the United defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Danliegh Borman vs. Bryan Namoff, Devon McTavish, Pat Carroll, and Marc Burch (and Zack Wells). Without the departed Jozy Altidore, New York has struggled to a) find a strike partner for Angel and b) put goals in the net. The Red Bulls have scored 19 goals in 18 matches, bad enough for 11th in the 14-team MLS. The DC defense has been taking it on the chin in lately (10g allowed in last five overall outings), but United did pitch a shutout vs. KC last week. Until NY can prove it can generate some offense... Advantage: DC
Dave van den Bergh, Carlos Mendes, Jorge Rojas, and Seth Stammler, vs. Fred, Clyde Simms, Joe Vide, and Ivan Guerrero. Mendes is not the answer at d-mid, especially if Pietrovallo can go, but the midfield is where New York may have an advantage. Rojas certainly looks like the playmaker that New York hoped retired Claudio Reyna would be, and van den Bergh is playing well. Former Metro Joe Vide, as all former Metros do when playing New York, will surely have a great outing. Advantage: Push
DC's Tommy Soehn survived his second straight slow start, but United is poised climb up the league table. Juan Carlos Osorio is ambling along during the summer doldrums, but his new arrivals need to make their prescence felt. After depressing draws vs. LA and at San Jose, there's not a lot of confidence in JCO or Sporting Director Jeff Agoos' abilities. Advantage: DC
DC hasn't lost to New York since October 8th, 2005, a span of five matches (4-0-1), but may get caught looking ahead to Tuesday's US Open Cup semfinal vs. New England. A match with DC usually draws the fans to Giants Stadium, so the Red Bulls should enjoy a home-field advantage. Forecast is for a high of 81, with pm T-storms likely (60%). Advantage: DC
Prediction: Unless the new New York arrivals make an impact, it's hard to imagine the Red Bulls winning this match. Let's say Moreno, Emilio, and why not, Joe Vide score for United, and Angel for New York in a 3-1 DC victory.
Tack it to the Locker Room Wall
Think Dutch Olympic coach Foppe de Haan coach is concerned about facing the US on Sunday? Said de Haan, "They don't have anybody extremely good," when discussing the Yanks. Them's fighting words. While no one who watched the US' 1-0 win over Japan on Thursday morning is penciling in the US for the final, let's hope Petr Novak's boys make de Haan eat some crow. A win clinches a quarterfinal spot for the US. A draw won't hurt. Even a loss to the Netherlands will keep the Yanks in the running on the 13th vs. Nigeria.