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Opposition 11: Will the New York Red Bulls make any changes when facing D.C. United Saturday?

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Jesse Marsch's early returns have been strong, so United will be facing a similar challenge to the one seen at Red Bull Arena.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways, the New York Red Bulls are going to be the same team we saw at Red Bull Arena. For one thing, they haven't gotten any injured players back. Mainly, though, the real reason is that nothing has occurred to make them change anything. Since their 2-0 win over D.C. United nearly three weeks ago, the Metros have played just once, and their 2-1 win in Columbus was no accident. The Red Bulls successfully pressured the best possession team in MLS and earned their win.

The only change Jesse Marsch made for the game against the Crew was to bring in new signing Anthony Wallace at left back for Kemar Lawrence, who himself was deputizing for the injured Roy Miller. Miller - along with center back Ronald Zubar - are still considered doubtful, while Lawrence was away with the Jamaican national team against Columbus. "Taxi" is back, and given his strong outing against United there's no reason to expect Wallace to remain in the team.

After that, though, nothing else is likely to change:

NYRB lineup 4/9/2015

Marsch is fully committed to a 4231, and with Zubar unavailable it appears that Matt Miazga appears to have held off challenges from guys like Andrew Jean-Baptiste at center back. He and Damien Perrinelle are not a convincing duo in my view. They're not particularly agile, fast, or good in the air, and I don't think either is a particularly gifted player in terms of positioning or anticipation.

Similarly, Chris Duvall isn't a standout right back by any means. Most MLS sides would be fine with having him around as a second-choice player. The fact is that he's positionally raw and doesn't have the sort of elite speed that lets guys like Marvell Wynne get away with that sort of problem. In my view, the NYRB midfield's ability to dominate games is the team's best defender. This back four, if exposed, is among the weakest in MLS. It's just that the "if exposed" is the complicated part of this equation.

That's because the midfield five - even with Sal Zizzo out of position on the left and not really an elite MLS starter - is dictating the terms of every match, regardless of the opposition. Lloyd Sam has been the best wide player in MLS thus far in 2015, and it's because he's added the ability to threaten by coming inside. In the past, he's troubled United by staying wide and looking to keep things simple: Beat the left back, hit a cross, etc. This year, he's become a multi-dimensional threat, and if United's going to win tomorrow they've got to keep him quiet.

Despite the presence of Sam, it's the central trio that really defines NYRB's midfield. It's not just that Dax McCarty, Felipe, and Sach Kljestan are all gifted and reliable on the ball, either. The main problem United had in New Jersey was the same problem the Red Bulls have tested everyone with: A mobile, flexible midfield that can attack from different angles at different times. Kljestan can drop off, Felipe can push up, and McCarty has a tendency to flare wide when he knows his central partners will cover the space in case of a turnover.

Zizzo should start on the left despite Mike Grella's goal off the bench last week. Zizzo isn't a natural on the left, but he compliments NYRB's pressing well and provides width. The good news for United is that he's pretty strongly right-footed, so if he's kept wide he should struggle to make an impact. If Grella does force his way back into the lineup, he's mostly going to keep things as simple as possible in possession, then look to make the runs of a striker when the ball is shifted to Sam (or to one of the central players, should they move right of center).

Up front, United is going to have to do better against Bradley Wright-Phillips than last time out. He's no longer the straight-up poacher whose job is to just make runs into the 18 waiting for Thierry Henry or Peguy Luyindula to provide service. BWP is more well-rounded than he gets credit for, and he caused plenty of problems dropping off the front line - leaving United's defense to briefly deal with the confusion that comes from having no one to mark - and looking to send other players through.

Off the bench, it's safe to guess that we'll see Dane Richards on one wing or another. I'd also expect to see teenaged target man Anatole Abang, as Marsch has made sure to sub him in for at least a minute or two every week. Grella will probably be the other sub, unless there's a defensive issue or Felipe loses his way (which would be enjoyable for everyone).