Ahead of D.C. United’s first rivalry clash with the New York Red Bulls, we talk to Steve Toto at Once a Metro, SB Nation’s Red Bulls blog, to get some insight as to where the Jerks from Jerz stand. Check out my answers to their questions over there.
(Black and Red United): Considering the Red Bulls have come out of the gates slowly the last couple of years how much, if any, cause for concern exists among the fanbase?
(Once a Metro): The feel is similar to last year's 1-6 start. We are wondering when we will see the team we love... hard pressing, sharp passing and decent on set pieces on both sides of the ball. The only player who is playing at the same level of last year is Luis Robles. It is a bit frustrating because the team really didn't turnover many of last year's XI, so the chemistry should exist on a high level. Bradley Wright-Phillips and "own goal" share the lead with two goals a piece. Not acceptable for the rest of the squad.
We all know the Red Bulls aren't as bad as the Union or Minnesota, so even through frustration exists, fans remain optimistic the team will start gaining momentum. The only problem is DC is in the same boat at the moment. We're hoping that we are the ones to wake up on Saturday instead of our Atlantic Cup rivals.
(B&RU): It's easy to say that Dax McCarty's been missed on the field, but considering how much of the proverbial good guy in the locker room he is, who would fill in that role off the field?
(OaM): Unfortunately, no one has stepped up for that yet. Sacha Kljestan is trying, but he's not the same smashmouth player and vocal leader that Dax is. Characteristics like that help off the field relationships as well. Kljestan leads in different ways, but he hasn't been as sharp as last season, so I can see if the more inexperienced players aren't getting the needed boost from a veteran of his capability & caliber.
Robles (and his dad) have been a bit more vocal on their frustrations in defense this season, so he's another leader that should have an impact on his team. Since he is one of the few players that has been performing, it does lift the team at times, but it just hasn't been consistent.
(B&RU): Barring a surprise, we'd probably expect to see Fredrik Gulbrandsen in some capacity on Saturday, yes? What are the early observations of him and the expectations of his role within his second Red Bulls club?
(OaM): Jesse Marsch hasn't really pushed Gulbrandsen heavily since being acquired. He either gets yanked early, enters late or changes the formation mid-game so he hasn't been in a good groove yet. Gulbrandsen still doesn't have a great connection with BWP, Daniel Royer or Kljestan. Players entering MLS usually have a fairly extensive learning curve, so I'm not ready to make snap judgments yet.
After a few more weeks, I'll make up my mind, but I think he'll acclimate well once the team starts to find their rhythm.
Injuries: OUT: Gideon Baah (broken leg, out for season), Mike Grella (knee; out another 1-2 weeks), Gonzalo Veron (hamstring; week to week); PROBABLE: Connor Lade (ribs)
Starting XI thoughts?: Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Aurelien Collin, Sal Zizzo; Sean Davis, Felipe; Kljestan, Daniel Royer; BWP, Gulbrandsen
Score prediction?: 2-2. Both sides are still trying to find themselves early in the season. I call that they share points.