United will be without Jaime Moreno and Bryan Namoff, as well as top reserve forward Guy-Roland Kpene and top reserve midfielder Justin Moose, all out with various injuries, and Ben Olsen is suspended for yellow card accumulation.
United will still have league leading scorer, Luciano Emilio who has scored eight goals in his past seven games including two in United’s recent 3-3 tie with FCD. Moreno will no doubt be replaced by Nicholas Addlery who had been playing with mixed success while Jaime was away with Bolivia. Considering Kpene being out and Dyachenko ineffective, it seems likely the Jamaican will get another shot to reproduce his Chicago heroics.
Replacing Olsen will be a bit trickier. While Benny was away with the US national team, Moose filled in his slot for the most part, but with him out as well recovering from hernia surgery, the outside midfield slot could be filled by either Dominic Mediate, Stephen deRoux, or even Marc Burch or Jeff Carroll. Soehn might even take a flyer on giving Josh Gros his slot in midfield back and playing one of those others at left back.
Likely it all depends on whom is playing better in practice this week, but Soehn has given some clues in his thinking lately. Mediate was behind Moose on the depth chart because he was not generating enough offense and while it is tempting to just pencil him in, wing attacks will be crucial to beating NY, and Gros as limited as he is, is the most effective attacker out of the lot.
So, if Gros plays up, I think Burch gets a shot at the left back slot. He’s played reasonably well there in reserve matches and against Harrisburg, but aside from that he’s shown the sweetest left footed diagonal cross field pass that United hasn’t seen since Ivan McKinley retired. It truly is a thing of beauty and would be a huge card to play against NY’s slow midfield. DeRoux or Carroll might be the better choice to mark Dane Richards out of the game, but just to see him launch Fred from the other side of the field 60 yards away would be worth my trip to the Meadowlands.
The Red Bulls on the other hand will be without leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel, and former United midfielder Dema Kovalenko is just rounding back into shape after coming back recently from injury. Angel is suspended due to a red card in NY’s last match versus NE, a 1-0 loss for the Red Bulls. Angel hasn’t scored in over a month and his frustration was obvious with the elbow on Shalrie Joseph that led to his suspension. However, NY does welcome back Jozy Altidore after his lovely display in the FIFA under 20 World Cup, and no doubt Arena will start him in place of Angel.
United torched the Red Bulls in their first meeting this season 4-2 behind a hat-trick from Ben Olsen, but with Angel and Olsen missing, only Emilio and possibly Dema Kovalenko will be the only goal scorers to make the second leg of this ever lively rivalry. But, low scoring matches are rare when these two teams take the field. DC hasn’t failed to score in against NY since Zach Wells nearly tied a league record for saves with 14 in June 2005. As a matter of fact, DC hasn’t lost in the Meadowlands since April 2004, and is 11-8-3 there lifetime.
The Red Bulls are also reeling in the summer heat of late as they have won only once since United beat them back in June, and have been shutout in three of their last four matches. They’ve looked old and slow in midfield and have re-arranged the bookends in their four back defensive line. Hunter Freeman has returned from injury on the right, and when the music stopped they ended up with Kevin Goldtwaite who’s on pace to play for every team in the league by this time next year on the left side.
Oddly enough despite the missing players and the less than stellar results of the past two weeks, DC simply has an edge against NY especially without Angel. Assuming DC plays with any kind of urgency and desire, and assuming NY doesn’t suddenly find their form after a month of dreck, then DC has players and the tactics to score at least one more than the Red Bulls.
Emilio and Addlery have the speed, power and precision to have an edge over Parke and Mendes in the center of defense. Fred and McTavish shouldn’t be troubled too much by Goldtwaite and either Van Den Bergh or Vide. Gros and whoever will only have to contain Dane Richards lightning speed on the right as he’s totally right footed and crosses only slightly better than first row Frankie Hejduk.
Winning the outsides will be key as that’s how we beat them here in RFK with Olsen and Fred swarming all over them. Also, Reyna and Dema or Stammler will be tough for Gomez and Carroll to break down. It also helps that neither Reyna nor Dema really floods the attack, so Gomez won’t have as many defensive runs to cover, and which should narrow down the passing options for Carroll to cut off.
On the defensive side, DC should be fine assuming no one pitches a howler like Perkins did in the past game, or like DC has been prone to do all season. Boswell and Vanney should be able to contain Altidore reasonably well and without Angel, none of Arena’s other options look to be that dangerous. Wolyniec is pure and simple a beast of burden and an opportunist. Neither Vanney nor Boswell are likely to let him slip one by, and if Arena goes with Mathis, it will be even easier to contain them as he’s lost interest in actually earning his paycheck of late.
Bottom line is that DC has the ability to win this one and will continue their rise up the Eastern standings. They have the players and the ability to do the job. All that remains is their attitude. Their road form has been a bit of a question, but Giants Stadium is virtually a home field for DC. Besides if they play as good as they did in Houston or as lucky as they did in KC, they will get the result. Play like they did in RSL or Harrisburg and it will be a long bus ride home for the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles.
United’s next three matches will be in the inaugural SuperLiga taking on Morelia next Wednesday, Club America next Sunday, and Houston on August 1st. United returns to MLS play against the Revolution on August 5th.