Projected Starters Above
The Red Bulls are set to host another Western Conference side during their early-season slate on a chilly Saturday night at Red Bull Arena. The Loons will make their first-ever appearance in Harrison with a few positives and plenty of negatives in their favor. Minnesota is on their first-ever two-match winning streak in their young history, and the Loons are above .500 for the first time as well. However, the visitors are missing a ton of regular starters either to injury or international call-ups, prompting head coach Adrian Heath to run out a second-choice back line. There’s plenty of attacking quality in the Loons’ lineup, however. Can New York take all three points in what looks like an early-season trap?
Saturday, March 24th at Red Bull Arena. 7pm ET kickoff
TV/Streaming: MSG2/MSG Go
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Hilario Grajeda (1st assignment in 2018)
MLS Record, GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form
New York: 3 points from 2 gms, 4GF/1GA, t5th East, t12th MLS, WL
Minnesota: 6 points from 3 gms, 6GF/5GA, t1st West, t3rd MLS, LWW
MNUFC 0-3 RBNY on 7.22.17 (Royer ’16, BWP ’67, Muyl ’90)
The Red Bulls’ Attack vs. the Minnesota Back Line
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg, Brett Kallman, Marc Burch, and Matt Lampson
BWP (1 MLS goal) must be salivating at the thought of going up against such an experienced back line. New York’s scoring savant is having a blistering start to the year, with four tallies and three assists in six appearances in the league and CCL. Minnesota is missing both starting centerbacks, who are away with their national teams, and starting wingback Tyrone Mears is out with a right calf pull. In their places will be first-round draft picks Wyatt Omsburg (pick 15) out of Dartmouth, and Carter Manley out of Duke (pick 23) both making their MLS debuts. Joining the two youngsters should be former NASL Loon Kallman, who made 23 appearances during Minnesota’s first year in MLS, and 33 year-old Marc Burch, who is with his sixth club over a twelve-year career. The last time the Red Bulls saw Matt Lampson, he allowed four goals to New York in the 2017 Knockout Round as the keeper for the Chicago Fire.
Advantage: New York
The Minnesota Forward vs. New York’s Defense
Christian Ramirez vs. Connor Lade, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kyle Duncan, and Luis Robles
Ramirez (1A), the 2016 NASL Golden Boot winner, knocked in fourteen goals last season. New York’s deep defensive corps has only conceded one goal from the run of play over six matches in the league and Champions League. Playing at home against an opponent with an unproven back line, Jesse Marsch may choose to throw an extra attacker on and go with a four-man defensive unit. With Kemar Lawrence away with Jamaica, Connor Lade may make a third-straight league start for New York at left back. Parker and Long should form the centerback pairing for the Red Bulls, and Kyle Duncan, coming off strong performances against Portland and Salt Lake, should get the nod on the right again with Amir Murillo with Panama. Captain Robles, as always, will be in net.
Advantage: New York
Danny Royer, Marc Rzatkowski, Sean Davis, Vincent Bezecourt, and Kaku vs. Ethan Finlay, Ibson, Miguel Ibarra, Collin Martin, and Sam Nicholson
New York fans should be thrilled to finally see Kaku and Wright-Phillips start a match for the first time. Also, the return of Sean Davis after a one-match absence should make the Red Bulls’ attack a little less hodgepodge in comparison to the effort last week in Utah. It’s early, but Rzatkowski may be an upgrade over Felipe in the d-mid position. The German’s relaxed presence on the ball and confident forays forward adds another dimension to the New York attack. With Tyler Adams away with the US, the other defensive slot may fall to Vincent Bezecourt (2A), or Florian Valot, if the latter isn’t with Red Bulls II this weekend. Minnesota’s strength is in the club’s midfield corps. Ethan Finlay (2G/1A) is on his way to replicating his 12G/13A breakout season for Columbus in 2015, the year the Crew eliminated New York in the Eastern Finals. 34 year-old Brazilian Ibson (1G) has UEFA Champions League experience while with Porto. Ibarra (2A) made history as an NASL call-up to Jurgen Klinsmann’s US National Team. The midfielder returned to Minnesota after a stint with Leon in Liga MX. Collin Martin will get the start with Rasmus Schuller’s call-up to Finland. Martin is a DC United homegrown and a former US youth international at the U14, U15, U17 and U20 levels. Sam Nicholson (1G), is a former Scottish youth international and a product of Hearts’ youth academy. He’s won the starting winger job and scored in Minnesota’s home win last week vs. Chicago.
Slight Advantage: New York
Jesse Marsch has quality depth at every position on his squad for the first time since joining the club four years ago. He’s confident in the ability of his second choice players to get the job done as he rotates the squad due to Champions League or national team commitments. Minnesota’s Adrian Heath knows his side doesn’t have the strength to match New York, saying this week, “We could be out virtually half the team for the weekend. So it’s never ideal, but I always talk about it: One door closes, another door opens for somebody else.”
Advantage: New York
As the teams have met just once before, there’s not a ton to go on here. The Loons have a road win on the season, at a poor Orlando side. The Red Bulls won their only other home league match in convincing fashion, four-nil over Portland. With his next league goal, Wright-Phillips will tie original MLS player Roy Lassiter for twelfth on the all-time MLS scoring list. At 85-20-30, New York has the best MLS home record in the league since the opening of Red Bull Arena in 2010. Minnesota has four road wins in their short MLS club history. The Red Bulls’ next win will be Jesse Marsch’s fiftieth league victory with the club. Saturday night’s weather will be cold for late March, with temps around forty and mostly cloudy skies. Given recent history for cold night matches this early in the season, the crowd should be light.
Advantage: New York
Saturday’s match is a trap, plain and simple. Given New York’s firepower and Minnesota’s inexperience in the back, the Red Bulls should have success going forward. The Loons will hope to score early and defend, a strategy which worked successfully last week by Salt Lake. The Red Bulls won’t succumb, however, cruising to a three-one win, and nudging up the Eastern table.