Friday, April 21, 2006

OK! Let's Play A Game Already!

With the massive musical chairs game that’s been played for the last two months around the Red Bulls, it’s a treat that Mo will be running the on-field show, at least for this week. As I said to my ticket rep this week, “the only constant is change.”

We’ve yet to hear from Marc De Grandpre, the team’s new managing director, but the word that there’ll be a separate “director of soccer operations” is promising. I wish I could say the same against the Bulls’ prospects of coming out of Saturday’s match with DC with three points. Here’s the line-by-line matchup as I see it from my gleaming midtown office tower this morning:

The DC forwards vs. the Red Bull’s defense:
Jaime Moreno and Lucio Filomeno vs. Marvell Wynne, Jeff Parke, Taylor Graham, and Carlos Mendes (and Tony Meola). Twenty goals. That’s how many goals Moreno has scored on New York in thirty matches he’s played against his former (hah) team. He didn’t get on the scoreboard in the teams’ 2-2 draw at RFK on opening day, which means he’s due. Meola had some terrific saves on RSL’s carpet last week. With a wet rug on the ground at the Swamp this week, he’ll have step up again, as he’s done all season long. The Red Bulls have given up only a goal a game in three matches. Slight Advantage: DC

The Red Bulls’ strikers vs. the DC back line:
Youri Djorkaeff and Edson Buddle vs. Facundo Erpen, Bobby Boswell, and Brandon Prideaux (and Troy Perkins). The United defense (thanks to some favorable calls) hasn’t been scored upon since Perkins’ howler gave Edison Buddle a gift goal on April 2nd, a 252-minute streak. Boswell, who had a terrific rookie season in 2005, had a strong outing last week holding down a potent Houston attack. Djorkaeff and Buddle haven’t hit the net since the season opener in DC, but perhaps a second-straight match on turf will help them regain their scoring touch. No? Ah well, it was worth a try. Advantage: DC

The Midfielders:
Danny O’Rourke, Seth Stammler, Amado Guevara, and Chris Henderson vs. Joshua Gros, Ben Olsen, Christian Gomez, Brian Carroll, and Freddy Adu. There’s really no contest here. Olsen has stepped up his game big time this season, and Gros, who scored last week, is maturing into a real threat on the wing. Gomez is extremely dangerous, and Adu will want to do something special in Sierra Mist’s corporate home market. On the NY side of the ball, O’Rourke and Guevara have yet to truly find a rhythm, and Stammler fits the wing like a square peg in a round hole. Advantage: DC

The Coaches:
Peter Nowak has his team in great shape, with a 2-0-1 record. He’s got hometown boy Alecko Eskandarian to pull off the bench, who’s scored three against NY in eight matches. It’s got to be a strange feeling to be Mo Johnston, who reportedly was prepared to be let go today. He’s got to try to get the most of the players he’s got, but his team was unable to get three points at the league’s weakest team last time out. Advantage: DC

Mother Nature is rarely kind to the NY side, and tomorrow is no exception, with showers expected all match long. The crowd, even with Freddy Adu in town, should be sparse, though there should be a good percentage of DC fandom at the stadium. For those watching on espn2, all the fans will be hiding under the overhangs. The downpour and wet carpet will surely put a premium on attractive play. Advantage: Push

There’s little, other than the play of Meola, that offers an ounce of confidence that the Red Bulls will come away with a point tomorrow. DC is too strong a squad, and NY too disjointed. Score: 2-0 DC

UPDATE: As of later Friday afternoon, BigAppleSoccer is reporting that Tony Meola, Youri Djorkaeff, and Jeff Parke are all questionable (hat tip: Mr. Bee) for tomorrow's match, leaving a possible lineup as: Conway,Wynne-Jolley-Graham-Mendes, Stammler-O'Rourke-Guevara-Henderson-Magee (upgraded to probable)-Buddle. Heaven help us.

For Your Viewing Pleasure
Here’s what’ll be on the tube over the weekend (times EDT). Enjoy!

SATURDAY, April 22
7:30am: EPL: Arsenal-Tottenham, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Juventus-Lazio, GOL
10:00am: GER: Hamburg-Bayer Leverkusen, FSC
11:00am: ITA: Messina-AC Milan, GOL
12noon: EPL: Everton-Birmingham, FSC
1:00pm: ECU: Dep. Quito-Barcelona, GOL
3:00pm: EPL: Portsmouth-Sunderland, FSC
3:00pm: BRA: Corinthians-Sao Caetano, GOL
4:00pm: MLS: New York-DC United, ESPN2
5:00pm: ITA: Lecce-Treviso, FSC
5:00pm: ESP: Celta Vigo-Real Zaragoza, GOL
6:00pm; MEX: Atlante-Club America, TELEF
8:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Cruz Azul, GALA
8:00pm: COL: Dep. Pereira-Atl. Nacional, GOL
8:30pm: MLS: Houston-Salt Lake, DK
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Necaxa, GALA
10:30pm: MLS: Los Angeles-Columbus, DK, HDNet

SUNDAY, April 23
11:00am: FA Cup: Middlebrough-West Ham, FSC
11:00am: ESP: Atl. Bilbao-Valencia, GOL
1:00pm: ESP: Real Madrid-Malaga, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: UNAM-Tigres, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: Velez Sarsfield-Boca Juniors, FSC
3:00pm: BRA: Santos-Atl. Paranaense, GOL
3:00pm: MEX: Toluca-Santos, GALA
5:00pm: MLS: FC Dallas-Kansas City, ESPN2
5:00pm: ELS: Firpo-Aguila, GOL
7:00pm: COL: America de Cali-Once Caldas, GOL

Nice to see: BusinessWeek gives props to MLS to the business leaders of the world here.

No comments: