MLS Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs DC United

Competition: Major League Soccer – New York Red Bulls vs. DC United

Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, March 22 – 17:00 ET (21:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 5)

Match Odds: New York Red Bulls 10/11 – Draw 5/2 – DC United 3/1

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls host DC United in their first home game of the new MLS season on Sunday evening. This has the potential to be a cracker as the Eastern Conference sides renew one of the oldest MLS rivalries as they go head-to-head for the Atlantic Cup once again.

With both sides hopeful of a playoff berth again this season, New York and DC will both see this as a must win game – even if only for the bragging rights at this early stage of the campaign.

The Red Bulls have had a turbulent offseason after losing the great Thierry Henry as well as Tim Cahill and head coach Mike Petke, but have managed to shore up their defence with the addition Ronald Zubar and have also strengthened in midfield with Sacha Kljestan coming in.

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Both sides were on bye weeks last weekend so will come into the game fresh and both will be looking for all three points.

The Red Bulls earned a hard fought point away to Sporting Kansas City in their opening game and will need to be at their best once again if they are to get a result from this one.

Ben Olsen’s DC United are one of the favourites to retain their Eastern Conference title this season as they look like a dangerous side despite playing without two of their best players in Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson.

The 1-0 win against the Montreal Impact looks like a great result as Montreal are significantly better than last season so far and have reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

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However, we are expecting the Red Bulls to challenge USMNT goalkeeper Bill Hamid on Sunday night in what should be a close encounter.

With the joint-best defence in 2014, DC United will provide a real test for Bradley Wright-Phillips and his Red Bulls teammates this weekend in what has the potential to be the game of the weekend. For any UK fans reading, it’s live on Sky Sports 5 and isn’t one you want to miss.

Team News

New York Red Bulls: Peguy Luyindula could come in for Mike Grella on the left wing. Roy Miller is a doubt but is expected to feature at left-back. Ronald Zubar has a hamstring problem but he is also expected to make the starting lineup.

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DC United: Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva and Markus Halsti are all out. Michael Seaton is a doubt and Fabian Espindola is still serving a ban that won’t see him return until Week 7. Taylor Kemp could start at left-back but is a doubt with a groin injury.

Key Points

New York Red Bulls’ form: D

DC United’s form: W

Key Stat: Bradley Wright-Phillips failed to register a single shot and only had one touch in the box when the Red Bulls played Sporting Kansas City on the opening weekend.

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Key Player: Jairo Arrieta – New DC United striker, Jairo Arrieta arrived via a trade with Orlando and scored in his first game against Montreal last time out. With Espindola and Johnson both out, Arrieta will be the main threat in front of goal.

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 1-2 DC United – This one could go either way, but DC United may edge this after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Red Bulls last term. Will revenge be served at Red Bull Arena on Sunday?

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2014 MLS Season Review: DC United

Eastern Conference final position: 1st

Eastern Conference playoffs: Semi-Final

Best Moment

3-0 win against the reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park in August, in which they were 3-0 up at halftime.

Worst Moment

Easily the recent 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in their Eastern Conference semi-final first-leg. DC failed to score and left themselves with just a little too much to do against their rivals.

Player of the Year

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Bill Hamid – it was tough to decide between him and Fabian Espindola. However, the DC keeper has more than earned this title. Superb all season and he looks set for a bright future with DC and the USMNT.

Biggest Win

DC United 4-1 FC Dallas (April 26 2014)

Biggest Defeat

LA Galaxy 4-1 DC United (August 28 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

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DC United‘s remarkable improvement from the 2013 season saw them cruise into the playoffs and that deserves great credit. They will expect to be challenging at the top of the Eastern Conference once again next season but need to play much the same style. They must follow up a solid season defensively and will look to add a few more goals to their tally. Eddie Johnson must start firing (if he remains in DC) if they are to challenge for the MLS Cup.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: D.C United vs New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls take a 2-0 lead to RFK Memorial Stadium on Saturday night in the second-leg of their Eastern Conference semi-final, and D.C United has it all to do to overturn the deficit.

Firstly, the home side have to make more scoring chances, as they looked like a defensive team in a training session during the second-half of the first-leg last week.

And more importantly they have to tighten up defensively. For both goals on Sunday night they were opened up by the formidable Red Bulls attack, as Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips were given too much time and space on many occasions.

Having enjoyed 53% of the possession, we were hoping there would be more life in United; with Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson nullified by the Red Bulls defense.

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D.C being at home in this game may sway the momentum and we may get a classic. However, it’s hard to see D.C shutting out the Red Bulls, and if that’s the case they will need at least four goals to progress. Though with a keeper of Bill Hamid’s quality, D.C always has a chance of keeping a clean sheet, and they did in this fixture twice in the regular season.

D.C’s home record: Played 17 – Won 11 – Drawn 4 – Lost 2

This one could go down to the wire, as both sides have been sublime as of late. But one of them has to exit the competition.

Their long-time rivalry means it could be an aggressive match and that will suit New York more than the hosts, as the Red Bulls know that they need to just remain tight and organised to keep the clock ticking.

New York’s away record: Played 17 – Won 3 – Drawn 7 – Lost 7

The Red Bulls are taking an impressive 1,000 fans to D.C for the away-leg and that support will be key, as we should see a fantastic atmosphere for the game.

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New York lost 1-0 and then 2-0 at D.C earlier in the regular season and the same result as the latter here would force the game to extra-time and potentially penalties, in what should be a drama-filled night regardless.

Key Stat: The first-leg saw D.C fail to score for the first time in an MLS Playoffs match since 2007.

Key Player: Fabian Espindola – The Red Bulls look favorites, but if D.C are going to progress, expect the former-Red Bull to be key.

D.C’s last five: D/W/W/D/L

New York’s last five: W/W/L/W/W

Prediction: D.C United 2 – 1 New York Red Bulls. Should be a tight contest, but New York to seal their place in the Eastern Conference final come the end of the game.

What can we take from DC’s 1-0 win over SKC?

DC United stretched Sporting Kansas City’s winless run to five on Saturday night thanks to a superb effort from the in-form Fabian Espindola. We take a look at what we learnt from the match:

1. Fabian Espindola’s goal.

Whether he meant is or not, it was still a superb effort. It could have quite easily have been a cross, meant for Eddie Johnson, but it ended up in the top corner. So he’d probably say he meant it.

Espindola has been sensational for DC so far this season and added his seventh on Saturday. The longer he can sustain his brilliance, the easier it will be for fans to get frustrated with Johnson. EJ needs goals and fast, with them both firing, they could win the title.

2. Erik Palmer-Brown was better.

The 17-year-old centre-half marked his debut a few weeks ago by giving away a penalty and receiving a red card, but was much better on Saturday despite his side’s loss.

A raw talent with bags of potential, he will need to adapt quickly to the expectations of the Champions quickly as they are missing their defensive leader, Matt Besler, who is away with the USMNT at the World Cup.

3. DC love a red card.

In the last four matches, DC has managed to notch up 3 suspensions, one of them being retrospective and the other two straight reds. Two of these suspensions were Eddie Johnson.

Alex Caskey picked up a straight red in the final seconds, despite only being on the pitch for a matter of minutes, and they will need to cut this out sooner rather later if they are to continue their charge for the Eastern Conference title.

4. Eddie Johnson needs goals!

At this point we’re not sure how much longer he can go without a goal. He seems to have all the hunger and desire to score but no luck.

His one goal won’t be enough either; he will need to add more and either a brace or a run of games with goals will make the difference in his fortunes, just so he knows he can score. He did however; open up the SKC defence a few times with some clever runs.

5. What happened to Dom Dwyer?

He was playing, just in case you weren’t sure, but failed to score in his second straight game. We saw glimpses of the poacher we know he is on Saturday night but he just isn’t getting the service without Graham Zusi playing.

Two scoreless games shouldn’t worry him too much, but it’s not what SKC need right now, as they haven’t won a game in five outings now, and Dwyer will need to get back to carrying the team going forward.

Highlighs via MLS on YouTube:

Takeaways from The Revs fifth Straight win as they beat DC United

New England Revolution recorded their fifth straight win on Saturday night, extending their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference to five points and look comfortable. There was a lot to take away from this game, they are as follows:

1. Patrick Mullins can play!

The 22 year-old rookie makes playing up front alone look easy, as he bagged his fourth goal in as many games.

He seems to thrive on scraps and brings people into attacks brilliantly. His hold up play is sublime and the counter-attacking style of the Revs suits him perfectly.

2. Lee Nguyen for MVP?

The midfielder single-handedly controls the tempo of the game and seems unstoppable on the ball.

The rest of the league has yet to shut him down, mainly down to his free-roaming style. With Andy Dorman sitting deeper, it allows Nguyen to advance and open up defenses.

He is already looking like the MVP with New England flying.

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3. Eddie Johnson has lost the plot.

EJ was sent off last night for a stupid reaction in which he kicked out at Kelyn Rowe.

This is the second time in three games the striker has been subject to frustration and as a result suspended, as he left his foot in on Montreal impact ‘keeper Troy Perkins just last week.

Johnson needs to clear his head while serving his suspension, and forget about the disappointment of the World Cup squad, as DC will need him this season.

4. Why was Fabian Espindola on the bench?

Despite coming on and scoring the equaliser, DC fans will be severely questioning Ben Olsen’s decision to bench him.

Espindola is DC’s top scorer this season with six goals, and was instrumental mid-week when they managed to record a 2-0 win against Houston Dynamo.

He may have been fatigued from that game, but would have surely been desperate to start again, as any striker would, and this could have changed the shape of the game.

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5. Can anyone stop the Revolution?

New England is a well-oiled machine, and seems to be optimising Jay Heap’s philosophy to great effect.

The counter-attack approach works so well, as the Revs invite teams onto them before exploding onto their opposition on turnovers.

It will take a lot to stop this outfit, with them set to continue this great run of five wins on the bounce, especially as they are not affected by the World Cup.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

What did we learn in DC United’s win against the Houston Dynamo?

Houston Dynamo visited DC United on Wednesday night and left with nothing but an injury to rookie Mark Sherrod as DC strolled to a 2-0 win. However, there a many things we can take from the game:

1. Giles Barnes is playing to deep for Dynamo.

The ex-Derby County winger is being deployed as a central midfielder as of late, and he is struggling with the defensive responsibilities assigned to him.

If the Dynamo wants to get the best out of Barnes they are going to have to play him in a more advanced role, and reduce the amount of his defensive duties.

You don’t keep your thoroughbred locked in the stables!

 

2. Dynamo are desperately missing Brad Davis.

Much of the reason why Barnes is playing in midfield is down to the loss of Davis, who is currently with the national team.

However, the experienced midfielder is widely expected to miss out on Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23- man squad for the World Cup, and so he should be back sooner rather than later.

The Dynamo midfield is missing their playmaker badly, and his set-pieces are irreplaceable.

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(Photo: Houston will be looking forward to the return of Brad Davis)

 

3. No Eddie Johnson, no problem.

Chris Rolfe deputized for the suspended Johnson on Wednesday night, in an advanced position, and he managed to score as well.

Filling-in to partner red-hot Fabian Espindola, Rolfe beat his man and fired past Tally Hall in textbook fashion.

Rolfe acts as a partner for Espindola rather than a target man like EJ, and it will be interesting to see how the trio play when Johnson comes back into the side.

 

4. Espindola is a touch of class.

I mentioned in the preview for this game that there was expectation on Espindola to perform, and he did not disappoint, grabbing the assist for Rolfe’s goal and scoring one himself.

He single-handedly inspired DC to victory by notching his fifth goal of the season.

He is arguably DC’s most important player as Eddie Johnson has yet to start firing on all cylinders.

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(Photo: Fabian Espindola is crucial for DC)

 

5. Bill Hamid has to be the next long-term USMNT ‘keeper.

The 23 year-old shot stopper showed again last night why he has such a great reputation. He was tested throughout the game by long-range efforts and looked commanding at all times.

With an upcoming age problem amongst the goalkeepers in the USMNT, the young Hamid has to be the first port of call, post Brazil. Brad Guzan is the youngest ‘keeper going to Brazil at 29.

Many will argue Hamid should be heading to Brazil, but playing more games for DC will only enhance his ability.

 

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

Preview: D.C. United vs Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo travel to DC tonight hoping to continue a rich run of form against the Washington DC based club.

DC will be without the suspended Eddie Johnson who misses out through a retrospective ban for leaving his foot in on Troy Perkins when the Montreal Impact visited on Saturday night.

However, they still can call upon the talent of Fabian Espindola, who will have to improve his record of four goals in ten games tonight if DC has any chance of winning.

The Dynamo will be pleased with how their attack is shaping up, with the recent form of Mark Sherrod impressing, and the rookie has 2 goals in as many appearances. Will Bruin will play alongside Sherrod again and ex-Derby prospect Giles Barnes will be responsible for supplying the duo in the absence of Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia.

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(Photo: Mark Sherrod will hope to continue his fine run of performances of late)

It looks set to be an uphill battle for DC, however, having lost only one in their last six, form is certainly on the side of the Washington-based club.

The loss of Eddie Johnson will be huge, as ideally he would have freed up Espindola to roam. But with EJ missing, expect attentions to turn to Espindola, who will be tightly marked for most of the game.

Player to watch: Andrew Driver (Houston Dynamo)

English-born Driver is due a goal and it would be perfect timing for the ex-Hearts winger to score tonight. He was unlucky against the Galaxy as he saw an effort come off the post, and he will be hoping his luck changes tonight.

Key stat: Houston have won six out of the last seven meetings between the two.

Prediction: D.C United 0-1 Houston Dynamo – I expect a second clean sheet in a row for Tally Hall who has been impressive this season.