We finally get our first crack at Eastern Conference rival New York Red Bulls, as Orlando City welcomes BWP and company to the Citrus Bowl Saturday night. The Red Bulls are not short on talent and will provide a difficult match-up for our Lions.
Here to help us learn more about our opponents is Jason Iapicco from our sister SBN blog, Once a Metro. Jason was gracious enough to give us the lowdown on Saturday night's opponents from
the Empire State New Jersey.
Who are three players from the Red Bulls that Orlando City fans should know about?
Once A Metro: Dax McCarty, Matt Miazga, and Damien Perrinelle. Dax is a defensive midfielder who should be considered one of the best in the league. He's been an anchor since being placed in that role in 2012 by Hans Backe, and the team has benefited greatly. The only thing missing that Dax should have by now is a U.S. call-up, but with a stacked midfield, the blue collar midfielder won't get a sniff.
On the back line, we have arguably one of the best pairings in the last few years for the Red Bulls, Matt Miazga and Damien Perrinelle. Miazga is a highly touted player who came up through the Red Bulls academy. He had a bad stretch last year that put him on Mike Petke's bench, but it did him a world a good. Miazga has been called into the last two tournaments for the U.S. U-20s, the U-20 World Cup, and U-20 WC qualifying. He's tall, but isn't a big guy, yet he plays like it. He doesn't have that true chase-down-a-streaking-forward speed, but is good at getting back when he needs to.
Perrinelle is probably the best fit for him. Miazga, even though he isn't built for it, generally plays as a bruising, hit-you defender, where Perrinelle can play more of a finesse defender when needed. His touch has saved the Red Bulls a few times this year where a straight clearance and back pass weren't options.
What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
OaM: Jesse Marsch likes to roll out a 4-2-3-1 with a high-pressure system. The goal is to pressure the opposition as far up the field as possible, and create turnovers as deep as possible, thus allowing a quick attempt on goal. The team wants to maintain the lion's share (pun intended) of possession, allowing them to control the pace of play. So if Orlando City has the ball, look for two Red Bull players to try and pressure the player with possession.
What are New York's strengths and weaknesses so far in 2015?
OaM: The strength of the team so far in 2015 is the center back pairing of Miazga and Perrinelle I mentioned earlier. They work well with each other and can cover a decent width of the field when needed. This allows the fullbacks to join the attack as Marsch likes to have them do. This, along with some cover from Dax McCarty, means that teams generally don't see many chances on goal.
The weakness so far has been the offense, which has recently started to figure things out. Bradley Wright-Phillips was used as a target striker last year under Petke, but Marsch has asked the designated player to step up and contribute as a playmaker as well. BWP has eight goals and six assists to his name so far. Despite the numbers though, the attack didn't manage more than two goals a game until June. BWP was routinely seen running behind the midfield instead of being the point man. This means that whatever good service there was (and it was lacking early on) wasn't getting to him. Lloyd Sam got five goals quickly (for him) but no one else was really stepping in to make up for the lack of goals from BWP.
What are the fans' expectations for this year's squad?
OaM: After a Supporter's Shield in 2013, and being one goal away from the MLS Cup Final last year, it's all or nothing. That would've been the case anyway, but the firing of Mike Petke set that expectation in stone. You can't fire a successful coach like that without expecting the next guy will bring you the rest of the way.
What is your projected starting XI and predicted score line for Saturday?
OaM: Formation: 4-2-3-1
(R to L)
Goalkeeper: Luis Robles
Defense: Connor Lade, Matt Miazga, Damien Perrinelle, Anthony Wallace
Defensive Mid: Dax McCarty, Felipe Martins
Attacking Mid: Lloyd Sam, Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella
Forward: Bradley Wright-Phillips
Prediction: 1-1 Draw. The Red Bulls, final results withstanding, are actually a decent road team. Now that their offense is getting on track and the defense (despite absences) is settling down, they'll be a tough opponent to take three points from. I think the heat will get to the Red Bulls, despite training for the conditions this week, but not enough for Orlando to break down the defense.
* * *
Big thanks to Jason for helping us get to know more about our new enemies.