With the weekend nearly here it is time to bring in some outside help to look at our weekend opponent. This week we welcome Jonanthan Machlin from New York Red Bull blog Once A Metro to preview our weekend game in our Three Questions series.
BDS: The Red Bulls had a good summer for the most part, up until these last couple of weeks. What cooled off the attack that was scoring goals left and right? And can we expect the Red Bull attack to find it's groove again this weekend?
OaM: The injury that Daniel Royer suffered against NYC FC in early August was a huge blow to the team. Guys who replace him in the starting XI like Alex Muyl, Sean Davis and Derrick Etienne Jr just don't have the attacking chops to compensate for his absence. We have yet to see what summer signing Muhamed Keita can do, but we most likely won't find out for a few more weeks...
As far as finding their groove again, that all comes down to how well FC Dallas defends versus Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips. If FC Dallas locks them down, the Red Bulls won't pose much of a threat. But if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.
BDS: Dallas fans know all about losing a guy like Dax McCarty. How has the transition been for the Red Bull's midfield in 2017 without Dax?
OaM: At first the defensive midfield was a mess - Sean Davis clearly wasn't the right fit to replace him at defensive midfielder, and Tyler Adams was only a little bit better than Davis but missed a ton of games with the USMNT U-20 team. After the team got their behinds handed to them against NYC FC at home, head coach Jesse Marsch did something truly surprising: Instead of trying to find the right guys to fit his system, he designed an entirely new system around his players' strengths. He abandoned the traditional 4-2-3-1 that he had been using since he first arrived, and deployed wing backs in place of a right back and a left defensive midfielder. There has been no consensus what to call his new system, so I just call a 3-2-1-3-1 formation.
The transition allowed Sean Davis and Tyler Adams to perform much better almost immediately, as did Daniel Royer.
The new system hasn't made them invincible, but it allowed the team to win 5 games in July and skyrocket up the table. But when this team plays at full strength in the system - watch out!
BDS: With the upcoming US Open Cup final looming for New York, how will this team remain focused on the regular season before that big game in KC?
OaM: This is without a doubt the most important game in Jesse Marsch's tenure, and the team's first real sniff at non-Shield silverware in a decade. It's been clear for anyone following the team since the 4th round that Marsch is taking the tournament very seriously, seeing as he has been deploying a mostly first-team squad for all of the US Open Cup matches they've played to this point.
As a result, Marsch's handling of his starting XI leading up to the game - especially in the wake of injuries to top players Daniel Royer and Aurelien Collin - will determine whether this team has a prayer against Sporting KC.
Marsch has taken a more patient approach this year though, resting veteran players during short weeks on several occasions unlike last year. It's cost the team a ton of points unfortunately, and with the way the Eastern Conference is stacked, even 50 points might not be enough to secure a playoff spot this year.
Over the course of the next three matches, we will find out just how important the Open Cup and MLS Cup play-offs really are to him.
As for the players, too often we've seen the pressure get to guys like Kljestan and Wright-Phillips. They'll have to do some deep reflecting on their past mistakes for this team to give Sporting KC a real fight.
DF Connor Lade - Aaron Long - Sal Zizzo
WB Alex Muyl - Tyler Adams
AM Sean Davis - Sacha Kljestan - Derrick Etienne Jr.
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
Injuries: OUT - M Daniel Royer; QUESTIONABLE - D Aurelien Collin, M Muhamed Keita
International Duty: D Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica), D Michael Amir Murillo (Panama), D Fidel Escobar (Panama)