Friday, April 26, 2013

Dax-less Bulls Take Off to the Great White North

After a two-game homestand that saw the New York Red Bulls split contests with Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution, it's back on the road. This time, RBNY will make its second trip of the year north of the border, visiting Toronto FC at BMO Field. Over the past few seasons, the Red Bulls have had Toronto's number, beating them handily in Harrison and getting generally respectable results in Ontario as well. But this year's TFC is a slightly different animal. Gone are most of the big names who underperformed for the Reds in recent years. Younger, homegrown players like Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry are starting to have an impact on the senior level, while Robert Earnshaw brought some badly-needed scoring bite from England and has arguably been the league's most dangerous striker during the early months of the season.

On top of all that, Ryan Nelsen has been a bit of a stabilizing influence for a franchise that has traditionally made the Red Bulls look like a model of stability. The Reds' only Achilles heel in the early part of the season has been their tendency to surrender late goals and turn wins into draws. With a number of road games coming up, they have to be disappointed not to have taken more than seven points in seven games. By contrast, the Red Bulls, for all their struggles, are currently in a playoff position, albeit with two more matches played than TFC.

Mike Petke had to be heartened by the four goal outburst against New England last weekend, but any sense of satisfaction has to be tempered by the fact that RBNY will need to find a way to get through the game at BMO without two key cogs in the midfield. The usually reliable Dax McCarty, is now out for at least two games with a quad injury, while Juninho misses one more game through suspension after pegging Jimmy Nielsen with his best free kick of the season.

Expect Petke to drop Tim Cahill deeper to compensate for the absence of McCarty and Juninho. We may also get a second look at a player like Marius Obekop with midfield options so limited. Peguy Luyindula is likely to be fit again to face TFC. Whether his finishing has improved is another question, but RBNY will not be short of options up front, with Henry and Fabian Espindola also available.

Jamison Olave was well enough to play the final ten minutes of the New England game, so he seems to have recovered from the injury scare he suffered against Kansas City. Look for him to be paired again with Markus Holgersson. The speedy Earnshaw must be salivating at the thought of facing two such lumbering centerbacks.

The match is an early kickoff, and will be shown locally on MSG at 2pm ET.

Onto the predictions!

Tom Faust is feeling a draw:
As exciting as it was to see the Red Bulls score four goals against the Revs, I'll be mighty surprised if we can string together two offensive performances like that. Keep in mind that the Revs were knocking at the door for much of the second half, so it was not the dominant game some would like it to be. I have not seen much of TFC this year, but if they're relying on Jeremy Hall for goals, they can't be in real strong shape. I am a bit worried about Earnshaw. He's the type of pesky, scrappy striker that can work our back four to death and slip in for some garbage goals. No idea what lineup we'll see as Peguy is healthy again. Hopefully, Toronto will be a bit worn out from Wednesday's Canadian Cup game, but I'm going to maintain an even keel here and call for a 2-2 draw. We'll get one from Espindola and one from - what the heck? - the Man of Steele.
Viper is in agreement:
Let's not let the goleada against the Revs fool us. If Revs players had taken the chances they should have, we could have possibly lost that game. The midfield still doesn't convince me, never mind our backline. Also, this is an away game and we usually suck away. That said, I'm not going to be totally pessimistic and predict a loss. I'm going to say we come out of Toronto with a draw, maybe 1-1.
I hate for all of us to agree, but it's hard to see how RBNY can get all three points out of this one with its central midfield basically absent. I'll go for a 0-0 bore draw. And that wouldn't be a terrible result, all things considered.

That's it for now. COYRB!

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