Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Matchday @RBA: Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC

RBA Has Been a Fortress
Good morning! The torrential storms have passed, Sporting KC arrived in New York at 1am last night, and we are ready for the big MLS Eastern Conference showdown tonight at the Cathedral of Football. The Red Bulls come into Wednesday night's game off a high, having beaten Columbus Crew on Saturday - a win sealed by a Thierry Henry Olimpico that was SportsCenter's #1 play of the day on a busy college football Saturday and even made it to the pages of USA Today. Sadly, the goal may still fail to win MLS' Goal of the Week award due to shameless ballot box stuffing by our Cascadian friends, who would probably vote for Fredy Montero if he scored one off his left buttock. Please, MLS, reform your ridiculous Goal of the Week and Save of the Week processes - maybe a panel of media should be weighted alongside the fans' contribution. Just a thought.

In any case, the Red Bulls have bigger fish to fry and clearly understand the importance of this evening's contest. Home field advantage during the playoffs will likely hinge on RBNY's ability to get maximum points from their remaining home matches, especially the two contests against Kansas City and the October home match vs. Chicago Fire - all proverbial "six pointers." Sporting has been somewhat less dominant in recent weeks, though they come into Wednesday's game undefeated in six and boasting the league's stingiest defense. The Sporks have been involved in a veritable shit ton of tight 1-0, 1-1 and 2-1 games this season. They have a reputation for pressing relentlessly on defense, something we saw give the Red Bulls fits when the teams last met. On the other hand, they are missing Teal Bunbury for the rest of the season and don't exactly score in bunches. So for the Red Bulls, getting - rather than conceding - the first goal will be crucial.

RBNY, for their part, remain undefeated at home this season, despite having surrendered early goals in recent weeks against the likes of Portland and Columbus. They also have a nearly full squad to call on, with players such as Teemu Tainio and Rafa Marquez having returned from injury. Hans Backe has the option of bringing the likes of Joel Lindpere and Sebastian Le Toux off the bench, a luxury many MLS managers would die for.

So... onto predictions. Will the Red Bulls keep their home streak alive or get Sporked in the nuts? Viper has this rosy outlook for us:
The Red Bulls are at home and are still riding high from Saturday's fantastic come-from-behind home victory, against  Columbus.  An in-form Henry and (dare I say it) an in-form Rafa gave us a glimpse of what this team is capable of.  Can they do it again against one of the top teams in the League?  I think so.  I believe that we will win... again!  I'm thinking Henry again and (why not?) Kenny Cooper gets one as well.  2-0 to the Red Bulls.
 Sub master Tom Faust feels somewhat less enthusiastic, to put it mildly:
Despite Henry's golazo Olimpico, their big names and payroll, I remain unconvinced that the Red Bulls are truly an elite MLS team. Finishing (other than Henry) is still woeful and the back line can't hold a clean sheet for 5 minutes. I hope to God that I am wrong, but I see an inspired KC pulling off a 2-0 victory. This time, Kamara will put both goals in the opposition net, and the Red Bulls won't have an answer for the Sporks' speed and aggression. At least, thanks to the 7:00 start, I'll miss KC's early goal.
Personally, I love the way the Red Bulls responded after going behind to Columbus on Saturday, but I hate the fact that they surrendered an early goal again. Surely they're not going to let that happen this time, are they? When these two teams last played each other, in Kansas City, RBNY barely got a sniff of the goal until very late on, but of course Thierry Henry played no part in that game. I like the Red Bulls to put in a much better effort on Wednesday against a faltering Sporting team. 3-1 Red Bulls. Henry with another, Le Toux finally gets his second for NY, and Cahill to round out the scoring. Sapong with the KC goal.

We'll see how it all shakes out when the match kicks off at 7pm ET tonight. Be there or be square.
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