Saturday, May 11, 2013

Red Bulls Put Four-Game Winning Streak on the Line in Foxboro

Turn Back! Danger Ahead!
Foxboro. It's a place that can strike fear in the heart of any Red Bulls/Metrostars fan. And not just because it's in the god-forsaken middle of nowhere. No, it's more about the New York MLS soccer franchise's remarkable ability to throw points away on the fake turf of Gillette Stadium - a place where they have not won a game since (gasp) 2002! There's last year's ignominious draw, when RBNY was so tantalizingly close to getting the full three points. There's the 2010 game, which featured an own goal for the ages by Tim Ream. There's the 2009 game, probably the nadir of a totally miserable season, when Tim Cahill's good buddy Taylor Twellman notched his 100th MLS goal, the Red Bulls got shelled 4-0, and the traveling fans got pepper sprayed for the privilege of watching the whole ugly thing unfold.

So why should we expect the Red Bulls to sustain their four-game winning streak this Saturday in New England? Short answer - we shouldn't. The Revs are pretty awful, and their main DP player Jerry Bengtson has been flat out terrible so far this year, but they did almost get a point off of RSL last weekend before throwing it away at the end, and Bengtson is bound to get off the schneid eventually. Why not against the Red Bulls, who have a habit of making pretty awful teams look decent? Then, of course, there is the fact that New York may well be without Thierry Henry, who has never suited up for a game on the field turf in Foxboro since arriving in MLS.

Add to all of this the fact that despite their good run of form RBNY are not really playing that well right now, a point driven home by Mike Petke during his MSG halftime interview on Wednesday, and you have a recipe for further disappointment. If Henry can't make the bus, we'll probably see Fabian Espindola paired up top with Tim Cahill, since Peguy Luyindula also has some mystery injury. (Are Frenchmen allergic to fake grass?) Luis Robles made a horrible gaffe - again - to make things interesting against Montreal on Wednesday. We can only hope that he's learned lessons from his recent mistakes and can become more consistent, because he has shown good shot stopping ability.

Petke changed things up a bit for the Wednesday game, with Roy Miller on the bench and Heath Pearce in the lineup, while Kosuke Kimura started on the right of defense in place of Brandon Barklage. We shouldn't be surprised to see both Barklage and Miller back in the starting XI on Saturday. Pearce, meanwhile, could be back in central defense alongside Markus Holgersson, with Jamison Olave unlikely to make the trip to New England. If Cahill is moved up to forward, the composition of the midfield is anyone's guess. Dax McCarty, who has been out injured for the last several weeks, could make a return. If not, he definitely has a role to play as in-game armchair analyst.

And what about the Revs?  Well, they've recently acquired a certain Juan Agudelo, in return for a few bags of peanuts, from the increasingly ludicrous Chivas USA. Will he play? Who knows? If he does, put your money on him victimizing his old team. That's how we roll.

Taking all of this into account, it's no surprise that our prognosticators are not especially confident. Tom Faust foresees a draw:

Red Bull fans are still floating on a cloud of euphoria after Le Roi Henry's beautiful overhead strike against L'Impact [why not watch again here? - ed.]. But we shouldn't forget the long stretches of uninspired play, Montreal pinning back the Bulls in their own half for a significant portion of the match, the difficulties getting the ball across the halfway line, another boneheaded play by Robles (you're making it tough to be on your side, Luis!) and the fact that we lost a clean sheet and almost threw away a victory in the space of 5 minutes. As we all know, Gillette Stadium is where Red Bull winning streaks go to die. As poor as New England has been, the weight of history tells me that New York should be happy to escape with a 1-1 draw.
 Viper is not feeling a win either...
Once again, I'm not convinced.  Despite the 2-1 home victory against Montreal, capped by Thierry Henry's super golazo, the Red Bulls had their backs to the wall for most of the game. As a Red Bulls fan, I have to take into account that Gillette stadium has been a House of Horrors for the Red Bulls. I can recall many a game where the Red Bulls have turned certain victory into a draw, or defeat, there and a couple of fantastic own golazos (Mendes & Ream) also come to mind. The Revs looked like the worst team in the league not to long ago when they came down to RBA, but I'm thinking they'll be up for this one. Also, does anyone, besides the Red Bulls Optimist, really believe that our glorious side can taste victory four fixtures in a row?  Not me, but I'll stop short of calling this one a certain loss.  I'm gonna predict a 1-1 draw and a great point in our march to Supporter's Shield glory.
I'd love to think we'll get a draw, but suspect that we'll find a way to crawl back home without any points. 2-1 to New England, with a pair of goals by the aforementioned Bengtson.

The game is being shown locally on MSG and kicks off at 7:30pm. For those traveling up, prepare for disappointment and  bring your pepper spray shields!

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