The last leg of the Atlantic Cup gets underway Sunday and before that, we chatted with our friend Steve Toto at SB Nation’s New York Red Bulls blog Once a Metro to get the latest skinny on the jerks from Jersey.
Black and Red United: With 3 games in 8 days, and Alex Muyl and Mike Grella out to accumulation suspensions Sunday, is there some kind of precedent for Jesse Marsch and player rotation with the Red Bulls that should be considered? Does the chance to clinch a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals appearance put stars in his eyes?
Once a Metro: I'm glad you follow our team's schedule so closely. This is a big week for the Red Bulls, indeed. First is the Atlantic Cup rivalry with DC to keep pace with Toronto and NYCFC, then a midweek CCL game in which they can clinch a knockout stage berth with a game to spare in the group, then finally ending the stretch with Toronto that is also gunning for NYCFC's top spot in the East. It's going to take a lot of guts and mettle from the guys to get through it with three wins.
Marsch will need to rely on his new talent to fill the holes Muyl and Grella have opened for the DC matchup. This means to start players like Omer Damari and Daniel Royer. Neither have featured much since being signed, but Damari scored the team's lone goal in their last CCL game. This could be a bit of a baptism by fire for those two. They may have to change formation to a 4-4-2 to give Sacha Kljestan some rest after his US national team stint and hope that Gonzalo Veron can pick up the slack. It wouldn't surprise me if Kljestan was a second half substitution. This will rest him while giving the team the same boost he gave to the US when he entered for the St. Vincent game.
All (especially DC fans) will laugh that the fact the Red Bulls don't have an MLS Cup trophy in the case after 20 seasons. But since the team is in a position for a solid CCL run, it wouldn't surprise me if the Red Bulls go hard for three points against Alianza midweek. This will give them the opportunity to bring in some RB II players into the mix for the final road game, while leaving some starters at home for needed rest before Toronto.
B&RU: Along those same lines, once Muyl and Grella DO come back and people stay healthy, it seems like the full complement of midfielders and forwards will be at Marsch's disposal for the first time in awhile. Does Marsch consider some sort of further minute management of players to get players like Sean Davis or either of the summer signings some additional time?
OaM: I believe that will be in the cards. They will have five central midfielders for three spots (Davis, Damari, McCarty, Felipe & Kljestan). I bet Davis & Damari will be the odd men out at times. Davis has filled in nicely for Dax during his injury that he will see more playing time during the road to the playoffs to save his teammates' fitness when it counts. Damari is still working on his chemistry with the other veterans. The same scenario will hold true for the midfield wings. Four players for two spots (Muyl, Grella, Royer & either Damari or Veron). Muyl and Grella will start most of the time. The other three will fill in as needed. Everyone seems to be getting healthy at the right time of the season. With the extra depth, they'll be able to tire teams out once the 70th minute rolls around. This will help their stretch of giving up late goals as of recently.
B&RU: Are there any expectations for what kind of reaction Lloyd Sam gets? Also, we're pretty much agreed he scores somehow, right?
OaM: I will be at the game on Sunday with my three year old son. I expect to hear cheers when Sam is introduced in DC's starting lineup. The rest of them will all hear "sucks" after their names are announced. Rightly so.
If Sam were to score a tying or go-ahead goal, there may be tears in the eyes of some of the fans and boos ringing out. But if RBNY is up 3-0 and he scores, it will be more of a bittersweet moment, but not a heartbreaker. Fans still want to see him successful. But not his current team. I'm hoping the latter happens if he is to score at all. I'd rather see a Bradley Wright-Phillips hat trick.
Connor Lade (out for season)
Gideon Baah (out for season)
Mike Grella (yellow card accumulation)
Alex Muyl (yellow card accumulation)
Robles; Zizzo, Zubar, Collin, Duvall; McCarty, Felipe; Royer, Damari, Veron; BWP
3-1 Red Bulls. Hat trick BWP. 78th minute goal from Sam
For my answers to their questions, head on over there to take a look.