Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Matchday @The Lair of the Great Satan: Red Bulls vs. DC United

I'll take "Stadiums in Better Shape than RFK " for $200, Alex
Down the stretch they come!

The New York Red Bulls are right in the thick of things at the top of MLS' Eastern Conference after somehow escaping Livestrong Sporting Park with a draw on Sunday night. Tonight they square off against the Great Satan, DC United, for the third and final time of the 2012 regular season. The teams split their two previous meetings. New York got hammered earlier in the season at RFK by a score of 4-1, victims of a Chris Pontius hat trick, but returned the favor at Red Bull Arena a few months later when Brandon Barklage had the game of his life.

For some reason, the powers that be at MLS decided to send RBNY twice to all three of their closest rivals in 2012, with only one home game against each of DC, New England, Philadelphia and Montreal, so it's back to the crumbling, rat-infested RFK for a second time. New Red Bull Lloyd Sam may make his debut, Thierry Henry will be back from daddy duty, and Victor Palsson has been loaned to a Dutch club, allegedly NEC, diminishing the likelihood of an ill-advised Red Bulls red card.

We'll have our usual, wildly off-base and totally unscientific predictions in a moment, but first let's look back at what happened on Sunday night in Kansas City.

How the Red Bulls managed to escape from Livestrong with a point despite not registering a single shot on goal may be a case for Mulder and Scully. Kei Kamara put a ball into the net at either end to account for the totality of the scoring on a night when New York seemed totally incapable of stringing two passes together. For the Red Bulls, balls were either misdirected, left short or hoofed long to nobody in particular. Communication on the pitch, at least in the attacking part of the field, was non-existent, and RBNY had no answer at all for the high pressure applied by Sporting Kansas City. Only late in the match, when KC began to tire, did the Red Bulls even get close to creating scoring opportunities. Dax McCarty had an improbable chance to take all three points at the death, but made a mess of the opportunity, as he is wont to do when anywhere near the opponent's penalty area (love ya, Dax).

The KC goal came as a result of some typically tortoise-like defending by Markus Holgersson and questionable decision making by Bill Gaudette, who had not put a foot wrong as a Red Bull until that point. The second, just before half time, brought New York level to stay. The usually solid Jimmy Nielsen failed to come out to claim a Sebastian Le Toux cross, and Kamara, under pressure from the tenacious Tim Cahill, put one in the back of his own net.

There were arguably more elbows being thrown than shots on goal in what became an ugly slugfest as time wore on. Kansas City's French defender Aurelien Collin was a particular offender, and he easily could have been sent to the locker room before half time after a series of elbows to players' heads. In the end, the only game he is likely to miss is Sporting's next contest, against lowly Toronto FC, as a result of yellow card accumulation. (More troubling for Kansas City is the season-ending injury to Teal Bunbury, who set up Kamara's opener.)

For the Red Bulls, even if the result in Kansas City was acceptable, the quality of the performance has to be a matter of concern. Without Henry, this is a team that has no clue how to create and sustain attacks. If New York is forced to go on the road in the playoffs and get a result, you wouldn't want to bet your house on it. That means they must take the maximum number of points from their remaining games - all against Eastern Conference teams and five out of eight at home - starting tonight at the crumbling wreck on the Potomac.

With no further ado, onto the predictions. Tom Faust has this for us:
After the last two away performances at Houston and KC, I don't hold out much hope for a stellar showing at the scene of the Red Bulls' greatest humiliation this season. There's no way we get another fluke point on an own goal without a single shot on target like Sunday, but I can't see a 4-1 drubbing. 2-nil to the scum sounds about right. Ugh.
Viper says:
DC just got dismantled by Montreal (3-0), but that was an away game for them. They're home and we're total crap away. The very fact that we just managed a 1-1 draw away, against Sporting KC, without a shot on goal (Thanks so much Kei Kamara) is a minor miracle. I don't believe it can be duplicated here, so Henry, Cooper, LeToux and Cahill (and whoever else wants to score) need to step up and put the fucking ball into the back of the net. We're going to have to do it without any sort of midfield  service for the forwards, but I'll take 1-0 victory, with an own goal off DeRo's ass. However, I don't think that's going to happen and I fully expect another away loss. DeRo will have his way to the tune of a 2-0 DC victory.
I'm going to predict a 2-2 draw. Henry will inject some life into the Red Bulls attack, but defensive problems will persist. Goals by Henry and Cooper, probably cancelled out by a brace from DeRo, which would put him over 100 on his MLS career.

Finally, the great David Kilpatrick, aka Dr. K, has this wildly optimistic prediction:
Tonight's gonna be a big challenge at that rodent infested hellhole the Scum call home.  Five points behind us with a game in hand, we can't afford to let them pick up ground on us, and we'll have to be vigilant and avoid the temptation of focusing on KC.  Hard to say who will be more up for this tonight: Henry will be inspired by his newborn and Dax will be keen to show he's been reborn.  They'll combine to take three points with a 1-3 road win.  Gone are the days when this fixture is taken lightly by the players.  They now know full well, we are the DC Haters, and will battle accordingly.
So there you have it - two losses, a draw or a win!

The DC match kicks off at 8pm ET on MSG Plus and Galavision. COYRB!

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