Dan Ferris of Once a Metro and I exchanged questions that will hopefully provide some insight into what you could see from New York on Saturday night.
1. New York just simply can't seem to put together any consistent run of good form this season. There's no doubt that on paper they're one of the most talented teams but why can't the Red Bulls put together a solid month of play?
Excuses. In manager Hans Backe's first season, when the team did not perform he attributed poor play to an overall lack in fitness. This season the reasons have included poor officiating, artificial turf, a four-week road trip including three cross-country trips to the West Coast for matches, the Gold Cup, and an overall crowded schedule.
The Red Bulls can't put together a solid month of play because they don't have the depth that's required to succeed for long stretches of time in Major League Soccer. The consistency just isn't there for the club to make a serious run at the Supporters' Shield.
At the beginning of the year when the Red Bulls brought in European veterans Jan Gunnar Solli and Teemu Tainio, not as designated players but at relatively high-for-MLS salaries, club management said they were aiming to have a solid core of the best twelve to thirteen players they could afford with the league's strict salary cap rules, and use the other seventeen roster spots on young, cheap developmental players. The strategy has not been fully realized as there are still a couple of glaring weak links within the first twelve to thirteen (Roy Miller at left back, Jan Gunnar Solli covering at right back instead of playing in the midfield where he is most comfortable, and the twelfth and thirteenth players are Juan Agudelo and?). But even still one could question if twelve or thirteen players is enough considering how often players are absent for international duty, pick up minor injuries, accumulate cards, etc.
New York has arguably the best starting eleven on paper in Major League Soccer, but until the club strikes a better balance between top level talent and depth by bringing in a handful of guys that are useful and can hold their own when called upon, the target for the club this season has to be to make the playoffs and play for the MLS Cup with who they have.
2. New York has just one win on the road, but a very respectable 5-2-3 record at home. What's been the difference between home and road play that sees NYRB so tough to beat at home?
Besides the general home-field advantage for MLS clubs (almost every team has more wins at home than away), the disparity in the Red Bulls match results is largely due to the club starting the season with a handful of winnable matches at home during a stretch of excellent play by the club. In their first eight games, the Red Bulls conceded just two goals, which is one less than what they conceded to Sanna Nyassi just on Wednesday night. It also just happened that the Red Bulls had four away matches during the Gold Cup when the team was missing five of its key players (Marquez, Richards, Ream, Agudelo, and De Rosario (R.I.DC.). The results weren't as bad as they could have been, with New York salvaging a couple of away ties during the stretch, but it definitely contributed to the lack of wins on the road as well. Also, the Red Bulls have yet to host FC Dallas, LA, Real Salt Lake, or Philadelphia, so the real tests at Red Bull Arena are yet to come.
3. We all know about Henry, Agudelo, Ream and Marquez but who is someone on New York that could hurt Dallas that may not be a household name?