Projected Starters Above
It’s a big week for the Red Bulls, who travel to Central Florida to take on a winless Orlando City side before heading to Mexico for the first leg of the CCL Semifinals. With the two matches just three days apart, and the altitude of Guadalajara (almost 5,200 feet), look for Jesse Marsch once again to rotate his squad to ensure the best possible outcome in the CCL. While a second-choice lineup can get the job done, the Red Bulls coach is rightly focused on the continental tournament. Of course, a major storyline for the match is New York facing Sacha Kljestan for the first time with Orlando. The Lions will be desperate for a win, and will have Dom Dwyer finally back from injury. Can the Red Bulls snatch a point on the road?
Saturday, March 31st at Orlando City Stadium. 1pm ET kickoff
TV/Streaming: UniMas/Deportes App
Red Bulls Radio: TuneIn App and www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Jair Marrufo
MLS Record, GF/GA, Division & League Position, Current League Form
Orlando: 1 point from 3 gms, 2GF/5GA, 9th East, t18th MLS, DLL
New York: 6 points from 3 gms, 7GF/1GA, t3rd East, t5th MLS, WLW
RBNY 3-1 ORL on 8.12.17 (OG 30′, BWP 60′, Davis 80′; Rivas ’18)
The Lions’ Attack vs. the New York Back Line
Dom Dwyer and Justin Meram vs. Connor Lade, Aurelien Collin, Aaron Long, Kyle Duncan, and Luis Robles
Dom Dwyer (61 goals and 13 assists since 2012) looks to make his first MLS appearance of 2018 after injuring his quad during preseason. The naturalized American must be salivating at the thought of quality service from Kljestan. Red Bull-killer Justin Meram played for Iraq against Syria on the 27th, then hustled back to Central Florida for tomorrow’s match. For New York, Marsch may once again go with a rotated midfield, anchored by Marc Rzatkowski, and playing the in-form Alex Muyl, who had the game of his career last week against Minnesota. New York’s back line posted their fourth clean sheet of the year against Minnesota. Lade and Duncan should once again start at fullback with Kemar Lawrence and Amir Murillo both seeing playing time in international friendlies this week. Aurelien Collin may get a start against his former team, giving Tim Parker a break until Wednesday. Luis Robles is twelfth on the league’s all-time shutout chart with 51.
The Red Bulls’ Forward vs. the Orlando Defense
Carlos Rivas vs. Scott Sutter, Lamine Sane, Amro Tarek, Mohamed El-Munir, and Joe Bendik
While I believe that BWP will see some action on Saturday, Carlos Rivas (2G) may get the start against his former side. Just as Kljestan will have something to prove against New York, so will Rivas against Orlando. The Lions’ back line includes three new players, and hasn’t been terrible (five goals conceded in three matches), but has still yet to jell as a group. Sutter is the lone holdover from last season. The Englishman appeared in 32 matches for Orlando, who missed the playoffs for the third straight season. Libyan International El-Munir came to the Lions from Partizan Belgrade in the Serbian League during the offseason. Amro Tarek is a 6’3″ American-born centerback that grew up in Egypt. Tarek played one time for Columbus in 2016, on loan from Real Betis. With Jonathan Spector out with a nasty head knock suffered against NYC, Lamine Sane should get another start. The 31 year-old Senegal international signed with Orlando from Werder Bremen in February. Joe Bendik is an experienced MLS keeper with time in Toronto and Portland. His team left him high and dry last time out in The Bronx, with a poor backpass, then a giveaway in the defensive third leading to both goals conceded to NYCFC.
Cristian Higuita, Yoshimar Yotun, Josue Colman, and Justin Meram vs. Derrick Etienne, Jr., Marc Rzatkowski, Vincent Bezecourt, Florian Valot, and Alex Muyl
One would think that a team with as much attacking talent as Orlando would be scoring goals with relative ease. New Designated Player and former Paraguay Youth International Josue Colman joined the Lions in January. Yoshi Yotun (1G) is starting his first full season with the Lions. He delivered the dreadful backpass last time out that led to NYC’s game-winning goal. D-mid Higuita made his first appearance of 2018 in the loss in The Bronx. For Sacha Kljestan, getting in the win column is the most important for his slow-starting new club, though he admitted this week that he wants to win Saturday’s match against the New York “very badly.” Bezecourt, Etienne, and Valot, who struggled last week, could fill out the lineup. A wild card is the health of Kaku Gamarra, who is listed as healthy, but was held out of last week’s match to do quad knock.
Slight Advantage: Orlando
Jason Kreis is only 15-23-14 as head coach of Orlando City, and needs to make the playoffs this season to keep his job. While many of his new pieces started the season either injured or suspended, Kreis must show that his success at RSL wasn’t a fluke. Marsch continues to plumb his deep lineup to positive results. The Red Bulls truly have battles at just about every position every week, with young players getting the opportunity to shine. The bigger test comes next week.
Advantage: New York
The Red Bulls are 1-1-1 all-time at Orlando, losing last season 0-1 on a close-in header off a corner from Servando Carrasco. New York has only allowed a single goal during the run of play in all competitions over 630 minutes. Orlando is only 7-6-6 at home since the opening of their stadium at the start of the 2017 season. Since 2013, Robles has accrued the most clean sheets (49) and saves (506) in MLS regular season play. The Red Bulls have struck first in five of their seven matches this season and are 4-0-1 when scoring first. New York has trailed for just 104 of the 630 total minutes of competitive action in 2018. Orlando City Stadium will be sold out, and loud. Skies at kickoff will be overcast, with 73 degrees and around 60 percent humidity.
If (and when) the Lions get their acts together, they’ll be tough to beat. With so many new pieces, it’s taking Kreis’ side a while to find themselves. If Marsch goes young (as above), Orlando may take the match. Wright-Phillips, Royer, Davis or Kaku can make a difference should they see meaningful minutes. Either way, the Red Bulls should eke out a 1-1 draw, then head to Mexico for the massive matchup with the Goats.