The New York Red Bulls have hit a rough patch and are winless in their last three matches. The team has a chance to stop the slide in their upcoming match on Saturday night with the rival D.C. United.
This game is the definition of a “get right” game for New York, as they are coming off probably their worst loss in a long time, dropping a 3-2 decision to Chivas USA, the worst team in the Western Conference, last weekend.
Chivas USA had not won in 19 matches, and had not scored more than one goal in a game since April 27th, so for the Red Bulls to allow 3 goals to that team, it was a pretty lousy performance out in Southern California. It resulted in Red Bulls Head Coach Mike Petke issuing a public apology to the fans for the poor performance of his team (www.nbcsports.com).
Then, leading up to this game against D.C., the story circulated around the media that Petke and Red Bulls team captain, Thierry Henry, had a heated argument during practice on Thursday and had to be physically separated by the assistant coaches (www.nydailynews.com).
This is not uncommon for a team with sky high expectations and one of the best records in the entire league, to have some dissention internally during a bad stretch of games. In fact, The Daily News, did a story on how Mike Petke truly embodied a New Yorker for confronting a world class player like Thierry Henry, and not cowering to him like other Red Bulls coaches have done in the past.
On a personal note, Petke was my favorite player on the old MetroStars teams, and I think his hard edge, intensity, and passion is the perfect combination for a Head Coach of this group of players.
The match against the D.C. United on Saturday night will air on the NBC Sports Network at 8 PM (EST) and is a feature game for MLS this weekend.
The United come into the game with a record of 3-17-5 and have the lowest point total in all of the MLS. The team from the capital city has a 1-6-2 record in their last 8 games and is 0-9-3 on the road this season (www.usatoday.com). They are coming off a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC last Saturday at RFK Stadium.
The players to watch for the D.C. United are: Luis Silva, Dwayne DeRosario, Bill Hamid, and Nick DeLeon.
Silva and DeRosario are the two key players for D.C. to make their offense work. DeRosario is a very difficult player to guard and defend when the United midfield can get him the ball up front into open space.
Bill Hamid, the goalkeeper for the United, played very well in the first meeting between these two teams which ended in 0-0 draw. He will need to replicate that performance for D.C. to have a chance to keep this game competitive.
I added DeLeon to the list because of the other injuries in the United midfield ranks at this point. He needs to step up and provide a strong performance in this game for his team to have a chance to win.
This is the last game in the season series between the two teams with the before mentioned 0-0 draw and a 2-0 Red Bulls victory the results of the prior meetings. The two teams compete for the Atlantic Cup which the Red Bulls will capture on Saturday night with either a win or a tie in this match (www.usatoday.com).
The New York Red Bulls come into the match with a record of 11-9-6, they are winless in their last 3 matches, and they trail Montreal by 2 points for first place in the Eastern Conference, so this is an important match for them.
The players to watch on the Red Bulls are: Luis Robles, Jonny Steele, Kosuke Kimura, Jamison Olave, Thierry Henry, and Tim Cahill.
The New York goalkeeper, Luis Robles, needs to bounce back with a good performance in this match after giving up 3 goals to the offensively challenged Chivas USA side last weekend. His play in this match is going to be key in the results.
Kimura and Olave will be relied on defensively to mark up against the top United offensive players. Their play in the defensive third in slowing those attacking runs is going to be critical to the Red Bulls strategy to win this match.
This is a match that, on paper, looks like it would favor the Red Bulls especially coming off the loss to Chivas USA. However, this is traditionally one of the most deep seeded rivalries in the MLS between New York and D.C., and the United will be prepared. The team from D.C. would like nothing more than to come into the Red Bull Arena on Saturday night in a national cable televised game and defeat the Red Bulls.
In the end analysis, I think the Red Bulls will come out focused and prepared, they play very well on their home field, and I think they will get the victory by the score of 3-1. It should be an exciting match and it is a crucial game for the Red Bulls to stop this slide of losing games to keep themselves in the mix for home field advantage in the MLS playoffs.