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Real Salt Lake at New York Red Bulls - a quick match preview

OK, this match preview is going to be shorter than normal as there just isn't enough time to do all the things I need to do today.

History would tell you that this match is likely going to end up in a tie, which has been the result 6 of the 11 times these two teams have faced off.  Of course history would tell you that is the best RSL can hope for as they are 0-3-2 when playing in New York, but this isn't the old RSL, it surely isn't the old New York Metrostars, and Red Bull Arena is a state of the art stadium, so I believe you can toss history into the trash bin and expect an interesting match.  Both teams will struggle with the early start time, and for New York they will struggle with 3 players being gone on international duty (Dane Richards, Bouna Coundoul, and Andrew Boyens).  

I think this match has some of the most interesting matchups of the season: Lets start with "the Trade" as Kyle Beckerman will matchup against Medhi Ballouchy, and for me this one is a no brainer Kyle is one of the toughest central defenders in MLS and while Medhi has stepped up his game since arriving in New York it could be a long day for him as every time he has matched up against Kyle, he has had his lunch handed to him.

Next up is the millionaire's club vs. the best center back in MLS as Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel will match up against Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers.  This one becomes interesting as JPA will be the only player on the pitch today for New York to ever score a goal against RSL, he has 3 goals in 5 matches played, and you can't deny that he is the best ever DP to play in MLS.  The numbers speak for themselves, as again this year he leads the Red Bulls in goals with 13, 3 of them game winners and has added in 3 more assists.  TH14 has quality and everyone knows it but adjusting to the MLS style and some minor injuries have him with just 2 goals and 3 assists in 10 matches, and he was rendered a non factor when the Red Bulls lost 1-0 at "El Castillo".  Olave and Borchers have simply been the best in MLS, solid, dependable, a combination of speed, size, strength, vision, and awareness that I don't think any two center back are better than they are.  Going to be fun to watch the battles these 4 have all day long.

more after the jump:

Of course you also have the unique matchup of Javier Morales vs. Rafa Marquez, both are still recovering from injuries but the abilities of these two to dominate matches for their teams is well known and for Javi there may be no better stage to make a case as a MVP candidate than against one of the most respected and hated d-mids to ever play in MLS.  Marquez is looking to make an impact, he has shown moments of great play since joining the Red Bulls, but he really hasn't dominated a match.

I also think you can look at Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley/Fabian Espindola/Paulo Junior against Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes as a key matchup.  With RSL holding a speed and size advantage that could put a lot of pressure on the Red Bull center back, Mendes is only 5' 11" and while Ream is 6'1" his inexperience has taken a great rookie campaign and tarnished it a bit in my eyes.  The last time these teams faced off it was a quick goal by Espindola that was the difference in the match and could be again today, New York has allowed 9 goals in the first 30 minutes of matches, while RSL have scored 12 in the first 30 minutes of matches.  The first goal is very likely the difference maker in this one, when scoring first these two teams are a combined 27-1-2, and 1-11-6 when allowing the first goal.

As in every MLS match the head official will likely play too large of a role in the outcome of the match as Jair Marrufo will be in charge of his 104th match, he has issued a red card in 1 of 4 matches and pointed to the PK spot in 1 of 3 matches that he has been in charge of.

I think this match will come down to how quickly New York can adjust to their new lineup, Bouna simply has been a saving grace for them in many matches and while Greg Sutton is a decent backup he is no Bouna.  Dane Richards has emerged as a real firestarter for the Red Bulls and had scored in 4 of their last 6 matches, including 3 game winners for them.  Without the guy who scores early for them in the lineup, how will they react?  Can Medhi handle the pressure of having to work with Lindpere as the main creative forces to supply chances to their forwards or will TH14 have to come back into the midfield to collect the ball for himself?  The RSL approach has to be to play with confidence and control possession, we know we have multiple players who can find the back of the net (5 have scored against New York in the past).  I think RSL gets an early goal between the 10-20th minute, and then New York will answer early in the second half to even it up. 

Then it will all come down to the final 15 minutes, the time Champions are made as RSL has scored 10 goals in the final 15, New York has scored 7.  RSL has allowed just 5 goals in the final 15, while New York has allowed 7, so both ways RSL holds the advantage and I think will get a late game winner in a 2-1 road win over the NYDP's