Real Salt Lake will play against the New York Red Bulls in New Jersey this Saturday. The Red Bulls were one of the best teams in the league last year, finishing just three points away from winning Supporters Shield and top in the eastern conference. This year, they look to build off the success of last year as well as give a unique formation another try.
It was a point of controversy when Bruce Arena left Sacha Kljestan out of his roster for the US Men’s National Team World Cup qualifier against Honduras. Several recent injuries to that roster meant changes, and one of those key changes was bring in Sacha for this US game. He’s one of the key players for the Red Bulls and while the current formation doesn’t seem to suit him best, the team will still feel the impact of having him gone. Imagine if RSL lost a key player like Beckerman or Rusnak; it’s something like that. He does a lot to develop the attack, and it will be interesting to see how they do without him.
A Shaky Defense
The Red Bulls have allowed five goals in three games. While they have won two out of three games, that’s still not great. RSL, by comparison, have only allowed four goals. Their defense against Seattle last week was not good. They allowed Atlanta’s first ever team goal and were on their back heals for much of that game. You can’t help but wonder if some of these defensive issues are a part of the void left by Dax McCarty.
BWP and the Attacking Threat
Bradley Wright-Phillips is still one of the best strikers in Major League Soccer. Any doubt that he couldn’t perform without Thierry Henry feeding him legendary service are now long gone. He’s proven year and year again that he can create and finish chances. BWP hasn’t had a consistent strike partner, but Royer has been able to provide good service and even a goal.
4-2-2-2-2-2-2 (repeats forever)
NYRB might be the only team in MLS that play a 4-2-2-2. It’s an uncommon formation, but one that sister club RB Leipzig (currently second in the Bundesliga) have used successfully. They played it as the start of last year, only to change to a 4-2-3-1, which provided them excellent results. Head coach Jesse Marsch spent a few days in Europe this week taking a UEFA coaching course, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with this formation, moves back to the 4-2-3-1, or tries something different. Several analysts have pointed out that the current formation does not work well with Kljestan’s skill set, but that may not matter for this match.