Hard as it may be to associate with a known enemy, I swallowed my pride long enough to exchange three questions with SB Nation's New York Red Bulls blog Once A Metro. As you might expect, we mixed in quite a bit of trash talking.
B&RU: The New York Red Bulls have had a wide variety of performances this year, from pretty crappy to utterly dominant. Which team do you expect to show up Thursday night?
OaM: I think it's a bit harsh to say that we've been crap -- at least not for whole games. So far we've created enough chances to win all of our games, we just haven't converted those (a recurring problem for the Red Bulls) and we've given away a pair of cheap goals. Unfortunately, the only rivalry game we've had so far produced one of the poorer performances this season, so Hans Backe will have to make sure his players understand the significance of Thursday's match and expect D.C. United to come out firing on all cylinders. There aren't many weaknesses in the Red Bulls team, and though left back and goalkeeper are problem areas, the rest of the defense is very solid. Perhaps the hardest performances to predict will be those of Thierry Henry and Dwayne De Rosario. Henry had been pretty disappointing until this past weekend, when he could have scored a hat-trick easily but will be buoyed by finally opening his account for this season. De Rosario was great in his first game, against Houston, but has been peripheral in the two matches since then. Fortunately for the Red Bulls, if just one of them clicks on Thursday it could be a long night for the D.C. fans.
B&RU: With a proven MLS winner in Dwayne De Rosario on board, along with all the other starpower, will this finally be the year that New York breaks through and starts winning some Cups? Or will chemistry be the issue that holds them back?
OaM: I believe New York has the most talented starting XI in the history of MLS (note the "starting XI" qualifier there) and that this team has the ability to win a trophy. Then again, many of us thought that last year should have ended at least with a trip up to Toronto, but the MetroStars/Red Bulls tradition of implosion prevented us from having that great day out. We're unlikely to win the Supporters' Shield because our lack of depth will probably be exposed while half the team is gone for internationals, but there is enough talent to win either the USOC or MLS Cup -- what none of us know is if this team has built up the mental strength to survive a cup run. Short answer: the ability is there, but I don't know.
B&RU: The Red Bulls' starting lineup against the San Jose Earthquakes included only one domestic player (Tim Ream). Why do you hate America?
OaM: Wait, you think that Tim Ream is American? Seriously? Has nobody told you how he's actually from Denmark, and his name is Tjimør Olafsson Papirbundt? Face it: Americans are losers in soccer. How many World Cups has America won? That's right, none. Hans Backe was brought in to Vikingize the Red Bulls and turn what was a rabble into a raping and pillaging machine, capable of sacking a town in thirty minutes flat. And they're pretty close to achieving that goal. Scandanavians are warlike and they are winners. Unfortunately, tides have prevented the Red Bulls from sailing up the Potomac to RFK, but anyone headed to the game on Thursday would be well advised to keep an eye out for vikings: I hear they have started testing out cannibalism.
Woah. Read my responses to Ben's questions below.
OaM: D.C. look vastly improved compared to last year. What do you think have been the team's most significant improvements and have United fixed enough to be a threat in the playoffs?
B&RU: D.C. United has gone from being one of the oldest teams in the league to the youngest in a matter of months. That 2010 roster had no apparent vision or direction. All filler, no killer. Now United is built around a possession-oriented style, with speed on the wings and on top to finish off their chances. The new additions are great and all, but this system is also allowing guys like Chris Pontius and Fred da Silva to shine. The team chemistry isn't quite there yet for this young squad, but I absolutely expect United to be playoff contenders in October.
OaM: Ben Olsen is in his first full season as United's head coach, and he's been part of a front office team that conducted a pretty significant squad overhaul through the winter. How much credit do you give him for D.C.'s solid start, and which of the new signings is most likely to surprise us with his impact this season?
B&RU: I give Olsen a significant amount of credit for assembling this roster. He's built it in his image. Its his Army. The vision in United's rebuilding process was to acquire intelligent, hard-working, aggressive players - all traits that Olsen embodied himself as a player. And so I don't think many are surprised by the impacts that Josh Wolff and Dax McCarty have had. The surprises have come on the back-line, where two rookies out of Akron in Perry Kitchen and Chris Korb have been vast improvements on the more experienced defenders that United used last season. Hey, now that I think about it, the second round pick that United used to draft Korb was acquired from the Red Bulls in a trade for Carey Talley, who played all of 45 minutes in a New York uniform last season. So thanks for that.
OaM: In the wake of Charlie Davies' performance against LA, what are the the chances of him getting a call-up from the US National Diving team for the Pan-American Games this fall?
B&RU: If Charlie Davies wants to be on the U.S. National Diving team, Charlie Davies will be on the U.S. National Diving team. Dude is un-freakin-stoppable. And yeah, he went down pretty easily after Omar Gonzalez pushed him with out-stretched arms, but we just count the point that United earned from the Los Angeles Galaxy match as karma to make up for all the horrible calls that went against us in our road loss to the New England Revolution that could have easily been a tie given a competent official.