Orlando City returns home after a tough road loss at Columbus — the Lions’ first defeat of the 2017 MLS season — looking to bounce back and continue their hot start in the club’s brand new stadium. That won’t be easy against a New York Red Bulls side that has owned the series. The visitors from
New York Harrison, NJ, have a 3-1-1 edge over two seasons of MLS play.
While Orlando may be coming off a 2-0 loss, the Red Bulls are 0-2-1 in their last three matches, so it’s the second year in a row New York will try to get well against the Lions. I don’t want that to happen. You don’t want that to happen. Let’s just move on and not think about it.
Steve Toto from Once a Metro stopped by to give us a scouting report on the Red Bulls. I also answered his questions, which you can catch over at their place.
After a couple of wins, the Red Bulls have stumbled a bit. What do you think is responsible for the club's recent struggles?
Steve Toto: It's really hard to pinpoint what is the exact cause. The team just doesn't look sharp; they have admitted it themselves. Some guys are out of position or slow to react to plays. Defending set pieces is lacking. Some of the passing is off and runs aren't timed well. It's pretty frustrating because most of the players have been together for the better part of two or three seasons, so broken chemistry should not be a struggle.
Another factor could be the formation. For the second season in a row, they have attempted to start off in a 4-2-2-2. In 2016, they abandoned it for a 4-2-3-1 after a 1-6 start. This season, they have switched mid-game a few times. Sacha Kljestan has not looked like himself coming off a wing. And whoever gets paired up top with Bradley Wright-Phillips doesn't seem to get involved in the play enough. It's almost better to change the second striker to a wing midfielder and push Kljestan centrally. Hence...4-2-3-1. Here's one fan hoping they stay that way the rest of the season.
One of the most talked about trades of the off-season was Dax McCarty going to Chicago. What effect has the deal had on the team, if any?
ST: First reaction — WHAT THE HECK??? Second reaction — Hmm...Sean Davis filled in nicely for Dax during his injury in 2016, maybe this won't be too bad.
The fact is that Davis and McCarty have different skill sets for playing the same position. Dax is a master at killing run-of-play transition for the other team. Davis may have better distribution and off-ball movement. This creates space for Felipe to handle the ball a bit more and others to operate in a larger area. So far, Davis has been a bit of a role player. He is not a heavy leader as Dax was, so many of his efforts may not be noticed to the untrained eye.
So far this season, which players have been fulfilling their roles and which have more to do to keep their place in the starting lineup?
ST: The word "fulfilling" is a bit loaded because even if players like Kljestan aren't performing to expectation, I can't see him getting benched. Kljestan, BWP and Robles are the players that have the ability to play every minute of every game this season, even during cold streaks. Two players surprising fans are Daniel Royer and Aaron Long. Royer came over last August from Europe. He operates well in the high-press system and even if his offensive efforts aren't clean, he is all over the field, disrupting play. Long was the USL Defender of the Year last season. He was expected to be the No. 3 CB behind Aurelien Collin and Damien Perrinelle. He has proven to be the No. 1 CB with Collin and Perrinelle flip-flopping No. 2 and No. 3.
Players like Sal Zizzo, Alex Muyl and (injured) Mike Grella need to pick things up. Zizzo has been in and out of the lineup, surrendering his starting spot to Connor Lade. The Red Bulls are actively looking on the transfer market for another defender to sure things up. Midfield wingers Muyl and Grella haven't been their old selves. Grella is injured a couple more weeks, so that may be the reason Muyl is still called on to start. Muyl was just loaned down to NYRB II this week to get more minutes.
What is New York’s injury/suspension situation like and what is your prediction for starting XI and final score?
ST: Injuries: Gideon Baah (broken leg; out for season), Mike Grella (knee; out a few more weeks), Gonzalo Veron (hamstring; in Argentina seeing doctors. Strange situation).
Projected starting XI: 4-2-3-1: Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Damien Perrinelle, Connor Lade; Sean Davis, Felipe; Alex Muyl, Sacha Kljestan, Daniel Royer; Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Score prediction: 1-1. RBNY have the ability to win, but they haven't proven to play a complete game yet. And they have to stop Larin.
Big thanks to Steve from Once a Metro for giving us some insight on today's opponents from New Jersey.