New York Soccer: FC New York

RBNY Recap: Beckerman helps RSL regain form in 3-0 win over Red Bulls

August, 7, 2011
8/07/11
12:30
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Either winning the Emirates Cup is easy or winning against an MLS opponent is really hard.

Kyle Beckerman helped his struggling club regain their finishing touch as Real Salt Lake collected a 2-0 victor over the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday. After sneaking past the Red Bulls defense, Nat Borchers connected with a Beckermann corner kick and bounced a header inside the net in the 13th minute to give Real Salt Lake an early lead.

The RSL captain then set up 17-year-old Luis Gil's first career goal in MLS in the 44th minute by intercepting a Rafael Marquez clearance on the left flank and sending a quick through ball to Gil, who calmy directed a bouncing shot inside the far post to put the home side up by two before halftime.

A Roy Miller handball in the penalty area resulted in RSL's backbreaker goal as Alvaro Saborio fired the resulting penalty shot towards the bottom right corner of the net in the 77th minute.

New York (6-6-12, 30 pts) failed to create distance against a surging Sporting Kansas City (7-7-9, 30 pts) side that lost on Saturday and gain ground following a Friday loss by the first-place Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts)and a Saturday draw by the Philadelphia Union (8-5-9, 33 pts).

Triple Threat. No player besides Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, and Joel Lindpere has scored a goal for the Red Bulls since Luke Rodgers found the back of the net against Toronto FC on July 6.

With Dane Richards missing Saturday's match due to suspension and Dwayne De Rosario and Austin da Luz now plying their trade for D.C. United, no player besides the Henry-Lindpere-Agudelo trio that was eligible to play on Saturday has scored a goal in MLS regular season play since Mehdi Ballouchy struck early against the Columbus Crew on June 9.

John Rooney, who entered Saturday's match in the 69th minute to replace an injured Jan Gunnar Solli, and Corey Hertzog were on the Red Bulls bench and scored against FC New York in the US Open Cup match on June 28.

Play of the Game: Gil's Goal. Real Salt Lake ultimately claimed their victory by controlling the run of play and disrupting any attempts by the Red Bulls to come to life.

And that describes how Gil's goal came to be, as Marquez looked to clear a Miller throw-in only to have Beckerman meet the ball on its downward trajectory and run unobstructed towards the net before pushing the ball up to Gil. It was a quick counterattack that caught the Red Bulls on their heels, but the lethargy shown by the Red Bulls plagued them all night and left the supporters wondering whether the club was suffering from jet lag from its recent London trip.

Rusty Rost. After conceding two goals in the first half, Red Bulls 'keeper Frank Rost saw his night end at halftime as Hans Backe handed the shot stopper duties to Bouna Coundoul. Backe admitted in comments on the MSG Postgame show that it's too early to determine a pronosis for the injuries sustained by Rost and Solli, but only the German 'keeper started the match with questions about his health after enduring an injury on the flight back from London. Teemu Tainio was also unavailable to play despite making the trip to Sandy, Utah with what the club described as "flu-like symptoms."

Keep Away. Much is made about Real Salt Lake's prolific possession game on offense, but it was ultimately their ability to recover loose balls from the poor form of the Red Bulls that fueled the offensive onslaught.

RSL recovered 55 balls from the Red Bulls on Saturday according to the Opta Chalkboards, which is more than double than the 27 balls recoved by New York. No RSL defender or midfielder recovered less than three balls from the Red Bulls, while no Red Bulls defender or midfielder other than Ballouchy recovered more than three from the home side.

If you want the ball, you have to go get it. Real Salt Lake most definitely did, while the Red Bulls failed to keep up on Saturday.

Don't Come Around Here No More. Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium has served as a house of horrors for soccer clubs great and small, culminating in a 37-match unbeaten streak that was ended by Mexican side Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League finale in April.

However, New York's recent futility at Rio Tinto remains intact as Real Salt Lake maintains a 2-0-1 record in regular season play against the Red Bulls since the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw in the first match of the building's history on October 9, 2008. The Red Bulls did collect a 1-0 win over the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 2008 MLS Western Conference finals to clinch a spot in that year's MLS Cup match.

After failing for the 11th time this season to collect a win outside the Eastern time zone against an MLS opponent, the Red Bulls will look to extract revenge at Red Bull Arena next Saturday against a Chicago Fire club that collected a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their MLS regular season matches on June 26 and a 4-0 victory in the US Open Cup quarterfinals on July 12. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Chicago Fire

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
3:29
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The Red Bulls hope an injection of youth can regain the swagger lacking in their MLS regular season play as they pay a visit to the Chicago Fire for a quarterfinal match in the US Open Cup on Tuesday.

New York finds themselves at Toyota Park after rookie midfielder John Rooney finished off derby dance partner FC New York in a 2-1 win of the US Open Cup third-round match at Red Bull Arena on June 28. However, the Red Bulls face the Fire with their heads hanging low after dropping their first shutout loss at home to rival D.C. United on Saturday and previously conceding a 1-1 draw to Chicago on June 26. Red Bulls castaway Dwayne De Rosario scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win for DC, while a Bouna Coundoul blunder enabled Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa to draw Chicago level on a soft goal.

Four-time US Open Cup champion Chicago hopes to continue its winning ways in tournament play after conceding a 2-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. David Beckham curled a corner kick into the net to answer a Cristian Nazarit header for the win, further frustrating a Fire side that has only one win in MLS play since March 30. Chicago has found more success in the US Open Cup, with three wins in the tournament that includes a third-round, 1-0 victory over the Rochester Rhinos on June 28.

Bad Timing. Due to a Monday morning thunderstorm that cut power to over 800,000 Chicago-area residents, officials changed the kick off time from the original 8:00 p.m. EDT first kick to a more daylight-friendly 6:00 p.m EDT. The match will also be streamed live on the Chicago Fire's website.

Key Matchup: Ballouchy vs. the "Best." Red Bulls coach Hans Backe already indicated his intentions to use all reserves for Tuesday's match at Toyota Park. Moroccan midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy was the only player in Backe's regular rotation to fly with the 13 players Backe invited to Chicago and is expected to start up top alongside rookie forward Corey Hertzog. Former defensive mainstay Chris Albright should also see some action at right back in his first match since undergoing hernia surgery in May.

Fire coach Frank Klopas will counter Backe's band of baby Bulls with a large part of his normal arsenal. Though that decision reflects a club initiative to mix-in regulars with reserves during US Open Cup play (having done so in two of their three matches so far), it will raise the talent level for the home side and give the baby Bulls a stern test.

That leaves Ballouchy, who has shown fantastic and frustrating moments for the Red Bulls in MLS play all season, in a situation where he must provide the polish and stabilizing play that Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo provided for the baby Bulls against FC New York.

CONCACAF Calling. Backe will rely upon his reserves as his club prepares for six matches in 19 days that includes road trips to Los Angeles, Colorado, and a doubleheader finale at Emirates Stadium in London.

With MLS All-Star First XI selections Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez nursing injuries along with Luke Rodgers, it's tough to criticize Backe's decision to balance what little depth is at his disposal. That said, New York is 11 points behind the LA Galaxy in the Supporters' Shield race and face the same doubts of every club hoping to reach the MLS Cup finals -- and receiving the automatic CONCACAF Champions League berth that comes along with it.

The Red Bulls haven't approached the CONCACAF Champions League as a top priority to date, but the US Open Cup could become their best chance to qualify and raise the club's profile within the region. Backe didn't pack his big guns for the Fire, but he may change his tune if the club makes to the semifinal match which would take place on Tuesday, August 30.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at San Jose Earthquakes

July, 2, 2011
7/02/11
9:00
AM ET
Their long and winding road trip leads the Red Bulls to the door of the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday evening (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

While New York carries the goodwill of their 2-1 comeback win against FC New York in the US Open Cup match on Tuesday, they still possess only one win since April 30 in MLS play after conceding a 1-1 draw to the Chicago Fire on Sunday. Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa answered a first-half goal by Joel Lindpere with a soft shot that badly beat Bouna Coundoul in the NY goalie's first start in seven matches. New York will look to complete the season sweep after a Luke Rodgers brace left the Quakes chasing a 3-0 result on April 16.

San Jose will look to reestablish its scoring touch after completing a scoreless draw at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday. The Quakes could not finish off a shorthanded LA side that called upon former Red Bulls midfielder Mike Magee to mind the net for more than a half after Galaxy shot stoppers Donovan Ricketts and Josh Saunders left due to an injury and a red card, respectively.

New York (5-3-9) sits two points behind the Philadelphia Union (7-4-5) in the Eastern Conference standings and find themselves tied with the Columbus Crew (6-4-6) for second place.

Dax's a Fact. The Red Bulls' midfield will have a new look as it debuts midfielder Dax McCarty on Saturday. New York received the veteran midfielder in a trade with D.C. United for Dwayne De Rosario on Monday.

The change in personnel may initiate a transition from the Red Bulls' 4-4-2 diamond formation to a flatter 4-2-3-1, with the defensive-minded McCarty joining Teemu Tainio in a holding midfield tandem that's expected to ease transitions from defense to offense. Whatever new look is drawn up, McCarty's presence should free wingers Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere to reinforce NY's attack.

Key Matchup: Tim Ream v. the San Jose Forwards. While Juan Agudelo's return from the Gold Cup provides much-needed depth up top for New York, Tim Ream returns with a sense of urgency to quarterback a Red Bulls back line that has played to mixed results in recent weeks.

With Rafael Marquez still tending to a hamstring injury, Ream will need to lead the defensive efforts against a dangerous Quakes attack led by 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and the pesky presence of Steven Lenhart. Wondo -- who was Ream's roommate at the Gold Cup -- likes to play the scavenger role in the box while Lenhart tends to play a more abrasive style (A headbutt on the ball by Lenhart led to Saunders's ejection last week).

Ream didn't appear during the knockout stages of the Gold Cup, but Red Bulls coach Hans Backe gave his young center back some much-needed playing time alongside Stephen Keel during Tuesday's US Open Cup match. Ream will need to be ready for the full 90 at MLS speed against San Jose's dynamic duo.

Depth Charges. New York wasn't the only club to make a trade with D.C. United on Monday. San Jose dealt longtime center back Brandon McDonald to DC for cash considerations, which is perceived as an endorsement of defender Bobby Burling with Quakes back line stalwart Jason Hernandez.

McDonald has only played 12 minutes in the club's last six matches, meaning his departure should hardly disrupt the Quakes' attempts to keep Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls' attack at bay. That said, his departure should signal to the Red Bulls that San Jose is very comfortable with the status quo on defense -- and disrupting them could prove difficult.

Backe Out. Assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen will oversee the sideline responsibilities for the Red Bulls on Saturday as Backe stayed behind in New York to recover from surgery for an undisclosed condition. While all indications are that Halvorsen will implement whatever game plan Backe drew up for San Jose, it remains to be seen what that will look like with the Red Bulls debut of McCarty and reinsertion of Ream and Agudelo.

A Sort of Homecoming. During halftime of Saturday's match, the Earthquakes will welcome back the 1994 U.S. Men's National Team to the site of the US's last stand against Brazil during the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Following a five-minute montage recalling the US run on home soil, the likes of Cobi Jones, Paul Caligiuri, and Tab Ramos will be recognized for one of the more memorable runs in the nation's history.

No word on whether former Red Bulls captain Claudio Reyna will be in attendance, but it's no secret that the 1994 World Cup served as a catalyst for the rebirth of professional soccer in the United States under the banner of MLS -- which made this and every other great American soccer blog necessary.

RBNY Recap: Lil' Rooney lifts Bulls over FCNY

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
9:00
AM ET
If first impressions are everything, John Rooney's impression of his older brother's in-game heroics was a good start for Red Bulls supporters.

Rooney's bouncing strike from the arc stood up as the game winner for the Red Bulls during their 2-1 victory over the USL's FC New York in the third round of the 2011 US Open Cup tournament at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. The 65th minute goal by the English rookie and younger brother of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney followed an equalizer in the 58th minute by Corey Hertzog to cement the Red Bulls' first win in any competition since April 30.

The win also clinches a spot for the Red Bulls in the US Open Cup quarterfinals, where they will face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on July 12.

Playing a Kid's Game. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe fielded a side consisting largely of reserves against their derby dance partners, with only forward Juan Agudelo, center back Tim Ream, and goalkeeper Greg Sutton being among the regular contributors available for Tuesday's contest. Midfielder Austin da Luz and defender Stephen Keel also featured in the starting XI for the home side.

While Backe's decision to rest his regulars will cloud any evaluations of the Red Bulls' prognosis in the near term, it also provided an opportunity for the likes of Rooney and newly-acquired defender Mike Jones to make names for themselves. Tuesday will not be the last time anyone hears from the Red Bulls reserves, as Backe has already indicated his preference to field a similar lineup against the Fire in two weeks' time.

"It will be the same team," Backe said to Big Apple Soccer. "I just hope that we have 11 starters on July 12 because July is a killer for us. I think we have up to nine games now in July."

Play of the Game: FCNY's Go-Ahead Goal. The Red Bulls largely dominated possession throughout Tuesday's match, but could not break through in the first half against an efficient FCNY back line that did not miss a beat while defender and team captain Sam Stockley served a one-game suspension for receiving a red card in the club's second-round match.

When Owen Morrison opened the scoring for the visitors in the 56th minute, it raised concerns about the same old Red Bulls that have conceded leads to fine and feeble MLS sides over the past two months. Morrison caught Sutton on his heels with a strike from distance that tucked itself inside the top corner of the near post.

Unlike the Red Bulls' recent efforts, Morrison's goal seemed to unlock a sense of urgency in the home side's attacking efforts. Hertzog would answer the goal less than two minutes later with a strike past FCNY 'keeper Steve Diaz, while Rooney doubled it up with the game winner in less than 10 minutes of Morrison's breakthrough. The Red Bulls' back line kept disrupting the FCNY passing lanes to stifle their attack, giving Sutton little to do for the rest of the night.

Morrison's strike incited the Red Bulls to finish off their guests. It's a description that hasn't fit the home side for quite a while.

New Faces. Tuesday's match featured a great deal of new blood from the ranks of the reserves, but they may not be the only ones adjusting to call Red Bull Arena home in the near future.

Before the match, Red Bulls GM Erik Solér indicated that the trade that brought midfielder Dax McCarty to New York should also free up resources to acquire more depth in the coming weeks.

“The trade with DC is a straight one," Solér said to MLSsoccer.com. "We’re ending up with some money as Dax’s salary is less than De Ro’s. We’re going to do more moves in the summer. Money under the cap is good for us.”

The Red Bulls will train at home for a few days before taking yet another transcontinental road trip to face the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. FC New York

June, 28, 2011
6/28/11
8:50
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It's derby day at Red Bull Arena as the New York Red Bulls welcome FC New York of the United Soccer League on Tuesday in the inaugural match-up between the two Big Apple clubs.

The two NY sides kick off as part of the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament, which is the oldest soccer competition in the United States and features both amateur and professional sides that are affiliated with US Soccer. The US Open Cup winner -- which has consisted of MLS clubs in 14 of the last 15 years -- receives an automatic berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League tournament.

Tuesday's match provides a pit stop for the Red Bulls, who were originally scheduled for a four-game road trip due to conclude this Saturday at San Jose. While the US Open Cup does not factor into the MLS Standings, the Red Bulls will likely play for their first win in any competition since April 30 after a soft Marco Pappa goal drew the Chicago Fire level for a 1-1 result on Sunday.

FC New York will take the pitch at Red Bull Arena after defeating the Pancyprian Freedoms 3-2 on penalty kicks at Belson Stadium on June 21. Goalkeeper and Queens native Steven Diaz saved a spot for FCNY in Tuesday's match by keeping a clean sheet against the Freedoms in regulation.

However, FCNY will be without team captain Sam Stockley after the English defender received a straight red card for a rough tackle in the second round match against the Freedoms.

Reserve Met. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe indicated that he expects to field mostly reserves in Tuesday's third round match against FCNY. Backe will likely have a few familiar faces at his disposal -- most notably forward Juan Agudelo and center back Tim Ream, who returned from international duty on Monday -- but will rest many of his regular players in advance of the club's upcoming weekend road trip.

“It will be mostly reserves,” Backe said to NewYorkRedBulls.com. “Ream and Agudelo [could be] in because they haven’t played that much, but mostly reserves. Even if I still feel that it is a priority to play the Open Cup, with this schedule - San Jose away on Saturday - we just need to be smart.”

Who's Minding the Store? While Backe will give a good look to the likes of 2011 draft picks Corey Hertzog and John Rooney, he will have a decision to make with regards to his shot stopper.

Both Greg Sutton and Bouna Coundoul have received criticism for the mental lapses that resulted in less-than-stellar results at Seattle and Chicago respectively. Backe may elect to give one of them an opportunity to shake off their poor performance, or turn to reserve 'keeper Alex Horwath in order to let Sutton and Coundoul rest. Whatever Backe decides, the pundits' gaze will focus squarely on whoever lines up between the goalposts on Tuesday.

Gracious Guests. When FC New York president Doug Peterson introduced the plans for his club's inception in 2009, he also laid down a challenge to the Red Bulls for an annual Grapple for The Apple competition.

His dream will be realized on Tuesday, but could quickly turn to a nightmare if his club finds itself just happy to play at Red Bull Arena. FCNY manager Paul Shaw recognizes that his players will need to remain tough in resisting the star power and polish of the MLS side lining up against them.

"There may be periods in the game where we feel very comfortable, where we think, 'This is OK,'" Shaw said to the Wall Street Journal. "And that's where the better teams and the better players will hurt you."

RBNY Recap: Bouna's blunder fuels Fire draw

June, 27, 2011
6/27/11
1:46
PM ET
New York's attempt to reclaim first place in the East just took another bad bounce.

Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa's bouncing shot from distance in the 58th minute helped his Chicago side collect a 1-1 draw against the visiting Red Bulls at Toyota Park on Sunday. Red Bulls 'keeper Bouna Coundoul, making his first start in any competition since representing his native Senegal on June 4 as well as his first MLS start since May 21, fell short in his attempt to parry Pappa's dribbler and enabled the Fire to answer an early Joel Lindpere goal for the side's MLS-record sixth consecutive draw at home.

The draw leaves New York (5-3-9) looking up at the Philadelphia Union (7-4-5) in the Eastern Conference standings after the Union reclaimed first place with a win against Chivas USA on Saturday.

Lindy Hop. While many will point to perceptions of goalkeeping struggles for the Red Bulls, they may just as easily overlook the goal by Lindpere that sent New York into halftime with a lead. Thierry Henry sent a ball through traffic into the box that deflected off Fire defender Yamith Cuesta. Lindpere then picked up the rebound and hit a grounder past Chicago 'keeper Sean Johnson for an easy finish.

With Lindpere's goal, New York has now scored at least one goal in the first half of the club's last 13 matches. No club has kept a clean sheet against the Red Bulls since the Union accomplished the feat on April 9.

Play of the Game: Bouna's Blunder. New York accomplished all the things one would expect of a winning side on Sunday. Lindpere produced a lead before halftime. The back line largely kept a speedy Fire attack in check. They completed over 100 more passes that the home side and kept their fouls to a minimum.

And then Coundoul surrendered what was by all accounts a soft goal to Pappa. The Sengalese 'keeper was in position when Pappa took a rather pedestrian shot from 25 yards out. Unfortunately, Coundoul struggled with a short hop at the last moment and was left flailing at the ball as it bounced inside the far post.

New York now has only one since April 30 -- a stretch of ten matches littered with blown leads, mental gaffes, and shortcomings. Those troubles are wearing on the players who now find themselves struggling to enjoy their day jobs.

"It's not fun anymore," Lindpere said to Big Apple Soccer. "We score one, but we give goals back. They get very stupid, easy goals against us, and then we fight to get the goals back. Then we do something stupid again."

Out of Service. While the Red Bulls midfield helped smother the Fire's attacking efforts, they forgot to leave the embers burning for their own offense.

Three fourths of the Red Bulls' midfield is now intact, with only Dwayne De Rosario playing out of position as he started up top to replace Luke Rodgers. However, the chemistry remains out of sorts as they could not feed the Red Bulls offense in the attacking zone. Chicago out-shot New York 9-1 in the second half, indicating a lack of service to balance that total by maintaining possession. Henry frequently came back to join the midfield and get the ball, which was previously a telltale sign of the dysfunction that crippled the the Red Bulls offense in April.

Lindpere gave New York an early lead, but he and his cohorts did little else on the offensive end for the rest of the match.

Back in the High Life. With the Gold Cup tournament concluding last Saturday, defenders Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes likely saw their chances dwindling to make up for past transgressions.

Save for a yellow card issued to Mendes in the 53rd minute, the pairing rose to the challenge and left the Fire frustrated for most of the match. Fire forwards Dominic Oduro and Orr Barouch failed to register a shot on target and could not get behind the Red Bulls' back line despite showing better pace for much of the match. That includes an early save by Keel in the 15th minute, who rushed back to deflect a shot towards net by Oduro mere moments before Chicago would claim an early lead.

Coupled with Jan Gunnar Solli patrolling the right flank again and an effective outing by left back Roy Miller, the defense distrusted Fire passing lanes and cut off distribution in a solid defensive effort that will be fortified with the remaining Gold Cup participants soon.

Golden Band-Aid. The conclusion of the Gold Cup means forward Juan Agudelo and defender Tim Ream should return soon, but the same can't be said for Ream's counter part, Rafael Marquez. The Mexican captain left the Gold Cup final match on a stretcher last Saturday with what was later described as a hamstring injury, leaving his prognosis in doubt for the foreseeable future. Marquez likely wasn't going to play in New York's next match on Tuesday, but now their Saturday trip to San Jose is in limbo as well.

The Red Bulls now head home to prepare for a true derby match as they welcome USL side FC New York to Red Bull Arena on Tuesday as part of the 2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament. First kick is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Seattle Sounders

June, 23, 2011
6/23/11
12:29
PM ET
New York continues its transcontinental tour as the Red Bulls visit the recently-renamed CenturyLink Field to face the Seattle Sounders on Thursday evening (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

The Red Bulls find themselves in the middle of a three-game road trip after escaping Jeld-Wen Field with a 3-3 draw against the Portland Timbers on Sunday. Dwayne De Rosario converted the club's second penalty kick of the season to cap a tumultuous second half that opened with two quick goals by Jack Jewsbury and Kevin Goldwaithe of the Timbers and an own goal by Red Bulls central defender Stephen Keel. Thierry Henry recorded the soccer equivalent of the Gordie Howe hat trick by tallying a goal and assist before receiving a straight red card for striking Timbers midfielder Adam Moffat in the back of the head during stoppage time.

Seattle returns home after collecting a 1-o win over Toronto FC at BMO Field last Saturday. Colombian striker Freddy Montero scored the game winner in the 90' minute by curling a free kick from distance around the TFC wall and just inside the top corner of the right post. The Sounders carry a four-game unbeaten streak into Thursday's contest.

A scoreless draw at PPL Park brings the Philadelphia Union into a tie with the Red Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference, with New York's 5-2-8 record falling one win below Philly's record of 6-4-5.

Help Wanted. Henry will miss Thursday's match due to the automatic one-game suspension that culminates from his red card. Luke Rodgers did not make the trip out west as he continues to rest the plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Wednesday's 1-0 win for the United States over Panama in the Gold Cup semifinals means Juan Agudelo remains committed to his national team responsibilities through Saturday. So what does that leave for the Red Bulls at forward?

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe indicated that De Rosario will start up top alongside Dane Richards, who returned to the club earlier this week after the US eliminated Jamaica from the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Sunday. Neither De Rosario nor Richards are strangers to the job, but they may be strangers to one another after last playing together on May 21 against the Houston Dynamo. They'll need to translate their midfield magic to the forward position in order to fuel one more makeshift Red Bulls attack.

Key Matchup: Red Bulls' Back Line vs. Freddy Montero. After Timbers team captain Jack Jewsbury opened the scoring in the 48' minute of last Sunday's match, the Red Bulls defense fell apart at the seams and found itself incapable of regaining the run of play from Portland. A New York 'keeper has not kept a clean sheet since Bouna Coundoul kept Sporting Kansas City scoreless on April 30, but the central defense took a major hit when stalwarts Tim Ream and Rafael Marquez departed for international duty in late May.

Enter Montero, whose goal against TFC last weekend should give him some positive momentum heading into Thursday's tilt. Montero is a dynamic playmaker and striker for the Sounders who could benefit from the pairing of Alvaro Fernandez and Erik Friberg regaining their form in the midfield. If Kassel and Carlos Mendes do not create enough disruption for the Sounders' passing lanes in the middle, it won't be long before Montero soils another sheet for a Red Bulls 'keeper.

Defense and Duct Tape. The Red Bulls will not be the only club struggling with a patchwork back line on Thursday. Colombian defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado received a red card in last Saturday's match at Toronto, rendering him unable to play and leaves Seattle coach Sigi Schmid looking to Patrick Ianni or Hawaiian defender Zach Scott for relief. The latter has played admirably in a reserve role, while the former has left enough room in his form for Scott to emerge. Both represent unknown quanities, and a potential hole for the Red Bulls' attack to exploit.

'Keeping the Faith. Despite the short work week and three-goal outburst by Portland, Backe indicated that he favors Greg Sutton to mind the net for New York. It's tough to blame the Canadian goalie for the complete failure by his defense in the second half at Portland, but Sutton would accrue seven consecutive caps with a start at Seattle while New York still faces two more matches against the Chicago Fire and FC New York in the next five days. Can Sutton handle the heavy workload?

Go Crazy, Folks. Go Crazy. While the Red Bulls successfully escaped the raucous atmosphere found in the cozy confines of Jeld-Wen Field, that experience may look quaint compared to what awaits at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders are expected to remove the tarps from the upper decks for the first time in anticipation of a crowd that could easily exceed 45,000.

New York could have brought the full onslaught of their supporters groups along for the ride and barely made a dent in what will likely be a very energetic and pro-Sounders audience. New York will need to keep the composure they lost in the second half last week and take charge in front of a big soccer crowd.

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