Aside from the team’s most recent game, the Red Bulls have started knocking goals in at a healthy clip. Do you think there’s been added emphasis on the attack with Aaron Long’s injury weakening the defense, or have things simply started to click up front?
Ben Cork: Certainly the Red Bulls are going to have to lean even more on outscoring teams with the back line so tenuous, but the recent goal-scoring form has also been a product of Gerhard Struber’s system finally clicking up top. Fabio finally added a goal to his top-5-in-the-league assist total and Patryk Klimala also scored his first MLS goal in last week’s loss in New England. This offensive system — built on direct aerial passes and constant ball movement — is designed to create chances for every player on the field, but when the strikers score on top of it the Red Bulls are a fearsome machine.
While New York’s last game was a 0-0 draw with Atlanta that might fly under the radar a bit, it did earn New York its first road point of the season in a very hard-fought performance. How encouraging was it to see a fairly young team get a point in the manner it did?
BC: It wasn’t pretty, but the team survived a couple of injuries (to defenders Andres Reyes and Tom Edwards), as well as a series of yellow cards to secure the first road point of the year, and it felt like a strong growing moment for the team. A young roster that featured teenage backups, such as Wikelman Carmona and John Tolkin, was able to hang with a veteran Atlanta team in one of the league’s toughest buildings, and the Red Bulls will definitely want to expand on such a gritty result.
The last time we spoke, you talked about how big Dru Yearwood’s return could prove to be. He played significant minutes in the Red Bulls’ last two games after substitute appearances against Orlando and Nashville. How has he, and the team, looked with him back in the lineup?
BC: While Yearwood still looks a bit short of 90-minute fitness and is not mistake-free, his talent has been apparent. A confident dribble, followed by a shot off the post, nearly put the Red Bulls up early in Foxboro, and his bursts from midfield are appearing to become more purposeful and occurring in better space. We still haven’t seen the best of this player, which should be scary for the rest of the league.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BC: The team has been riddled with injuries even beyond the infamous one to Aaron Long. Veteran forward Daniel Royer, left back Andrew Gutman, and defensive midfielder Youba Diarra have all been out long-term, and the outlook is likely still dodgy for leading scorer Caden Clark, the teenage sensation who missed last week’s games with a burst appendix. The one player whose status is potentially pivotal is Cristian Casseres Jr, who had been shining for the Red Bulls before spending the last month with the Venezuela national team, eliminated from the Copa America earlier this week. An available Casseres opens up a world of different midfield combinations for a Gerhard Struber, who has been reduced to deploying fullback Tom Edwards in defensive midfield over recent weeks.
Projected Starting XI: Carlos Coronel; Kyle Duncan, Sean Nealis, Andres Reyes, John Tolkin; Sean Davis, Cristian Casseres, Frankie Amaya, Wikelman Carmona; Fabio Netto, Patryk Klimala.
Score Prediction: 1-1. This young Red Bulls team is slowly learning how to fight and grind out results on the road and will be eager to build on the draw in Atlanta last week. Orlando might be too tough of an opponent to pull off the first win, but they’ll keep it close.
Thanks again to Ben for the update on NYRB. Vamos Orlando!