Saturday, March 9, 2013

Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Matchday 2 Preview

Hey Guys - Now Would Be a Good Time to Show Up!
Hello folks!

It's been a while since we last posted a Red Bulls match preview. Forgive us for taking some time to get over the epic disappointment of 2012! Any of you who attended the final match against DC United or who were foolish enough to venture out to the Snow Bowl will understand the crushing disappointment that accompanied the end of the Erik Solér/Hans Backe era. A team that seemed to have more than enough talent to go far in the playoffs couldn't get out of its own way, and the manner in which they bowed out left a sour taste in everyone's mouth, including yours truly.

The never-ending search for a new manager just exacerbated the negative feelings. Despite bringing in a new regime - led by Andy Roxburgh, Jerome de Bontin and Gerard Houllier - that was supposed to have clearer ideas about where they wanted to take the club and how the organization should be structured, the Red Bulls still seemed lost. When Mike Petke got the head coaching job - almost by default - many RBNY faithful rejoiced to see a guy they know and love in charge, but the messy process for how the organization got there left a black cloud lingering over preseason that still hasn't fully dissipated.

So where are we as we head into week two and the second of two West Coast road games that RBNY faces to start the season? Not really that far from where we were when the 2012 season ended, if we're being honest. New York threw away a 3-1 lead in Portland last week, crumbling under the Timbers' second half pressure and showing signs of fitness issues that have plagued this club for years. The less said about the defending the better. New arrival Jamison Olave did some nice things on the defensive end and pitched in with a goal, but he was also guilty of statuesque defending on Portland's opener and allowed the late Timbers equalizer to ping in off his leg (not that there's much he could have done about it). Luis Robles also looked anything but confident between the pipes.

If Mike Petke wants to get anywhere with this team, he is going to have to find a way to sort out the defensive problems and get steadier goalkeeping (Ryan Meara - get well soon). Otherwise, the Red Bulls can score as many as they want at the other end and it won't amount to anything.

Equally worrying is the fact that New York's big three - Henry, Cahill and the newly-signed Juninho Pernambucano - did little or nothing on the turf at Jeld-Wen. The Red Bulls goals all came from what one could argue were unforgivable defensive miscues by Portland. Mikael Silvestre in particular had a nightmarish debut. Juninho is now out for the San Jose game on Saturday with - what else - a calf strain (did Rafa Marquez leave that behind?), so we are likely to see either Jonny Steele or Eric Alexander take his place in midfield against the Quakes.

San Jose seemed unbeatable last season. With MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski scoring for fun and the pesky Steven Lenhart chipping in with some crucial goals, especially late in games, they looked like a team destined for MLS Cup. But the wheels came off in the playoffs, as the Quakes bowed out in the semifinals to eventual Cup winners Los Angeles Galaxy.

So as we go into Saturday night's kick off at Buck Shaw (likely New York's last ever visit to the postage stamp-sized stadium, with the a shiny new stadium already under construction), let's get some predictions from the Viper's Nest crew...

Intrepid traveler Tom Faust, who witnessed first hand the meltdown in Portland, has this for us:
I liked what I saw from the team out in Portland - live, I might add. Petke's attacking mindset was evident and I think Espindola will continue to perform at a high level. I do think Juninho will really be missed. In the first half, at least, he made a real difference in RBNY's ability to hold possession and distribute from midfield. I think we'll see Cahill in a more forward position and, hopefully, he'll return to the offensive powerhouse form we saw at Everton. Hopefully it will only take a week for the fitness issues to be sorted and San Jose will be as error prone as Silvestre. I'm calling a 2-2 draw, with Cahill and Espindola scoring for the mighty Red Bulls!
The Big Viper feels slightly more confident:
I'm gonna go with a big RBNY win! The Quakes are going to be short lots of players so there is no better time for the good guys to get in there and take all three points on offer.  Yeah, I know that Juninho Pernambucano just went down with a case of turf calf, but I'm betting a tenner that both Henry and Cahill will show up for this one.  I'm also counting on Olave and Robles to get past their horror outing at Portlandia and shut shut down SJ.  RBNY 2 - Quakes 0.  'ave it mates!
Finally, my prediction:
We always knew this might be a tricky way to start the season. Again, the MLS schedule makers have done the Red Bulls no favors, unless you consider the fact that they will have two tricky away fixtures over with before the middle of March a favor. On the other hand, would we really want to have to deal with snow on the ground at RBA again this weekend? San Jose is a bit depleted and it's not often that we see Henry have two stinkers in a row. I am going to go way out on a limb and predict a 2-1 New York victory, even as every bone in my body tells me that we'll lay another egg.
Well that's it for now. Best of luck to the boys in red and white. Kickoff is at 10PM on ESPN2.
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