Orlando City will get a tough home match-up when the Lions take on the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium. The Red Bulls (3-2-2, 11 points) are currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference, just three points and one position behind the Lions (4-2-2, 14 pts) in the standings, with New York holding a game in hand. Let’s take a deeper look into this week’s Eastern Conference foe.
Offensively, the Red Bulls have been above average this season. New York has scored nine goals so far this year — one fewer than Orlando, which currently has 10, with one more game played. The area in which the Red Bulls have excelled the most on offense has been in the total number of shots that they take. New York is currently second in MLS in total shots (109) and first in total shots on target (41). This gives the Red Bulls a shots on target percentage of 37.6%, which is not the best in the league, as they currently rank seventh in this category. However, this is better than the Lions, who are 17th in the league, with a shots on target percentage of 31.1%.
One area where the Red Bulls are not as sharp is the passing game. New York is statistically one of the worst passing teams in the league, ranking 27th in pass completion percentage (70.6%). The specific part of the passing game that has given the Red Bulls the most trouble has been on long passes, or passes greater than 30 yards in length. On such attempts, New York is last in the league, only getting these passes cleanly to their intended target 43.3% of the time. It will be important that the Lions exploit the weak passing game of the Red Bulls and turn bad passes by the opposition into scoring chances on the other end.
New York is one of the most stout teams in the league when it comes to defense, only giving up six goals so far this year (tied for fourth best in MLS). The Red Bulls rank first in MLS in both tackles won (106) and pressures (1,688). The majority of these pressures are not successful though, as New York has a successful pressure percentage of 29.9%, which is just 13th best in MLS. The Red Bulls also rank in the top 10 in the league in interceptions (second), clearances (eighth), and blocks (ninth). Furthermore, New York has only allowed more than one goal in one game this season, when the Red Bulls lost 2-1 at home to Montreal earlier in April.
Players to Watch
Midfielder Lewis Morgan has had a great start to the year for the Red Bulls, as he leads the club in goals with three. Morgan is also second on the team in scoring attempts (17) and he is tied for first with forward Patryk Klimala in on-target scoring attempts (nine). Forward Tom Barlow has given the Red Bulls a spark of life on offense off the bench so far this season, subbing into the game for five of the club’s seven matches this year. Barlow has taken advantage of his opportunities when he has seen the pitch, as he finds himself tied for second in goals scored (2) for the Red Bulls this season despite only playing 246 minutes thus far.
Defender Sean Nealis has been one of the main contributors to an impressive New York defense. Nealis, who was born in New York, is the leader for the Red Bulls in duels won (94), is tied for third in interceptions (10), and is fourth in duel percentage (57.5%). Two more contributors to the Red Bulls’ defense are defender John Tolkin and midfielder Frankie Amaya. Both Tolkin and Amaya lead the Red Bulls in interceptions this season, with 13 apiece. Amaya is slightly ahead of Tolkin in duels won (69), while Tolkin has 65. Carlos Coronel has been the starting goalkeeper for New York this season, conceding only six goals on 21 shots for a save percentage of 71.4%.
Let me know what you think about the Lions’ next opponent in the comments below and as always, go Orlando!