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Match Preview: RSL vs New York Red Bulls

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MLS: New York Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

RSL is playing host to the red-hot New York Red Bulls on Wednesday in what will be their only regular season match-up against the Eastern Conference side. Wednesday’s game is RSL’s first of a two-game week, as well as their third game in nine days.

Streaks at stake

After a somewhat rocky start to the season, New York is currently on a four-game winning streak in MLS play, which includes the 7-0 pounding they gave NYCFC back on May 21. They are 5-1-1 in their last seven games.

RSL has a streak of their own to protect—after the 2-2 draw against Portland last weekend, they’re now on a five-game unbeaten streak at home (4-0-1) and will hope to keep pushing that number up this summer while they play the majority of their games at home.

However, the Red Bulls haven’t been particularly good on the road this year, which ought to give RSL a bit of confidence, going 1-5-1 in regular season play as they make the trip across the country for their first visit to Utah in 2016. Their last road loss came on May 13 when they lost 2-0 to DC United.

Match history

The all-time series is dead even between these two clubs, with each team having five wins apiece and six draws through 16 matches played in the MLS regular season.

The most recent came at Red Bull Arena on June 24, 2015 when the Red Bulls hung onto a 1-0 lead over a nine-man RSL after Javier Morales and Demar Phillips each received a red card. Mike Grella scored in the fourth minute of that game to give New York their initial lead, and RSL wasn’t able to mount a comeback.

The teams also met in the 2008 MLS Cup Playoffs when RSL qualified for their first-ever playoff berth. New York made the trip to a brand new Rio Tinto Stadium for the conference finals and ended up knocking RSL out of the competition with a 1-0 win.

Key players

NYRB forward Bradley Wright-Phillips has been on an absolute tear as of late, notching the fastest hat-trick in MLS history on May 29 when the Red Bulls beat Toronto FC 3-0. He scored three goals in just 27 minutes and now sits on eight goals and two assists for the season. He started off scoreless in his first seven games of the season, but scored all eight goals in the seven games since then while he and the Red Bulls look to be in top form again after a slow start to the season.

Midfielder Mike Grella has also been in great form, getting himself a brace in their 2-0 win against the Sounders last weekend. Grella has six goals and three assists on the season, and seems to thrive in taking players one-on-one. He’s proven to be very dangerous with the ball and can find himself in great spots to pick up loose balls and put them into the back of the net. Combined with Sacha Kljestan in the midfield, it makes for a tough pair to defend against.

For RSL, Burrito Martinez is absolutely tearing it up right now, with five goals and two assists on the season. Three of those goals have come in the last four games and he’s only looking better and better on the attacking end. He had a beautiful header against Portland last weekend and has a knack for taking any player on and beating them, and most of the time he will send a perfect ball into a waiting teammate or put a shot on frame. He’s proven he has the endurance and work rate to track back on defense too, which has come in handy keeping RSL in the game multiple times.

I’m going to have to mention Chris Wingert here as well, since he’s had a really good run of form these last few games. He’s quickly become regular starting left back over Demar Phillips and has looked like the pre-NYCFC Wingert we all remember, if not even better now. He’s been great at running the left flank and sending balls into the middle in the final third, and he tends to find himself in really good positions.

How to beat the Red Bulls

It’s looking to be a battle in the midfield with some amazing talent from both sides going head-to-head (most likely Morales/Sunny/Mulholland up against Grella/Kljestan/Sam/McCarty/Felipe), and it’ll be interesting to see whose formation will prevail this time around, whether it’s New York’s lone striker setup (4-5-1) or RSL’s dangerous 4-3-3 with the attacking trio of Plata, Movsisyan, and Martinez.

Although, it may just be as simple as Kyle Beckerman might put it—RSL just needs to score more goals than the Red Bulls do.