Friday, March 22, 2013

Desperate Red Bulls Limp Into Montreal

Peguy Luyindula Has Signed. Will He Start?
Following a home opener that saw the New York Red Bulls dominate proceedings but emerge with just a single point for their efforts, Mike Petke's men go back on the road again to face the red-hot Montreal Impact, who boast a perfect record through three games. As RBNY travels north across the border, they also do so without a single designated player. Thierry Henry is suffering from a sprained MCL after a collision with James Riley on Saturday, while Tim Cahill will be away on international duty with Australia. Meanwhile, Petke is unsure if he will start Juninho on the rock-hard artificial turf at Olympic Stadium.

Andy Roxburgh and the front office have been busy signing new players, though it's anyone's guess where they've gotten all of these international slots. Ex-PSG striker Peguy Luyindula, Brazilian forward Rafinha and Cameroonian midfielder Marius Obekop all inked deals this week, but it's hard to imagine any of them getting their first start in Montreal. Then again, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Perhaps more surprisingly, RBNY announced just this morning that they have signed well-traveled MLS veteran keeper Kevin Hartman. Luis Robles had a solid game against DC, though in all honesty he didn't have much to do. In the season's first two matches, however, he had been less than stellar, so this move makes sense - especially if the expected return of Ryan Meara from long-term injury has been pushed back.

All in all, it's hardly the best of scenarios for New York, who have shown some moments of real quality over the first three games, only to be let down by poor finishing, lousy luck, and some unpardonable mental lapses. An optimist might recall that the Red Bulls were without a number of key players during the early part of the 2012 campaign and still went on their best run of the season. Could it happen again? Petke had better hope so. It's very early days, but RBNY cannot afford to fall too far off the pace. Three points at the Big O would go a long way toward calming fans' nerves and setting things up nicely for the visit of Philadelphia Union next weekend.

In the meantime, let's take a moment to praise the team's performance against DC. During the second half in particular United had its back against the wall, and was extremely fortunate to emerge with a point. If not for some stubborn goalposts and desperate goal line defending, it would have been a comfortable Red Bulls victory. Also heartening was the solid display at the back. Markus Holgersson, starting for the first time this season alongside Jamison Olave, may have had his best game since arriving in New York. Petke has clearly put a bug in his ear about being more aggressive in one-on-one defending, and it paid off against DC. Now if he can just work on his passing...

Onto the predictions from our team...

Tom Faust doesn't foresee complete disaster:
While coming away from the home opener with only a point and no goals was disappointing, in retrospect, it was one of the most dominating games RBNY has played in recent memory. I hope that mindset and teamwork will stick, but still think we'll be lucky to take a pint from an on-form Impact team. I do think that we'll break the dam with a 2-2 draw.
 But Viper is expecting the worst:
As the winless Red Bulls will be visiting the hottest team in MLS right now (Montreal) I don't know that I can predict anything but a loss.  That's before you factor in the fact that both RBNY DP's will be missing from this one.  I'm hoping that Peguy Luyindula will take Henry's spot and that Juninho can get us a free kick goal, or two.  That said, I'm going to predict a 2-1 loss and a continuation of the winless streak.  Of course, I hope I'm wrong but I have to be realistic. 
I'd love to predict three points, but have to agree with Viper. Everything seems to be conspiring against this team at the moment. I expect RBNY to put up a valiant fight but fall 2-1 to Montreal. But despair not, Red Bulls fans - they will bounce back next week against Philadelphia, who have yet to earn a point in Harrison.

Finally, please please please submit your choices for our Sub Watch Predictor Contest by Saturday for a chance to drink free suds at Red Bull Arena with our own Tom Faust.

That's it for now. The match kicks off at 4:30PM on Saturday, and will be shown locally on MSG, with the pregame show starting at 4PM.

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