What to expect from New York in Saturday's clash at Red Bull Arena
It's not the greatest start for the conference rival Red Bulls, who enter Saturday's game with just two points and a 0-2-2 record.
After coughing up road leads in Portland and San Jose, New York was shutout in back to back games with DC United and Montreal. A nil-nil home draw preceded last weekend's 1-0 loss in the Olympic Stadium.
It's a bit of a transitional time for a club that made significant offseason moves.
For starters, head coach Hans Backe was replaced by assistant Mike Petke, an MLS veteran who started and finished his career with New York. Misfit designated player Rafa Marquez was shown the door with the likes of 2012 leading scorer Kenny Cooper, Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio, Jan Gunnar Solli, and Wilman Conde. (Sebastien Le Toux ended up somewhere else as well.)
The club made some trades within MLS before reaching overseas for a few veteran names. A combination of front office and personnel changes gives New York a much different look in 2013.
Philadelphia is 2-6-0 all time against New York. Saturday's match will be a chance for the Union to win their first game inside Red Bull Arena.
Red Bull Attack
Midweek news revealed that starting strikers Fabian Espindola and Thierry Henry might not be fit for this game. The pair have not trained fully this week and seem to be game time decisions.
If that's the case, look for French veteran Peguy Luyindula to start his second straight game. Assuming Tim Cahill is good to go after returning from international duty, Petke could push the Aussie into a more advanced role. The other option is to use 17 year old Amando Moreno or recent acquisition Andre Akpan.
New York is still trying to find the best fit for Brazilian superstar Juninho. He's certainly lost a step at age 38, but his quality speaks for itself. He's still one of the best dead ball strikers in the world and will find a way to contribute this season.
The wings have been a point of intrigue this season. Projected starter Lloyd Sam has mostly sat on the bench in lieu of guys like Eric Alexander, Ruben Bover, and Jonny Steele. There's not a ton of natural width on the Red Bull roster, but Alexander has been a solid performer in recent weeks.
Red Bull Defense
There's been a bit of a shuffle at center back, where Jamison Olave and Heath Pearce partnered to begin the year. With left back Roy Miller on international duty, Markus Holgersson was brought in centrally while Pearce shifted to fullback. A third look was used against Montreal, with Pearce and Holgersson combining centrally in the absence of Olave, who was advised not to play on the turf at Olympic Stadium.
Backup LB Connor Lade missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but could be available this weekend. Right back Brandon Barklage picked up a red card against Montreal and will likely be replaced by Kosuke Kimura in Mike Petke's XI.
Luis Robles has been mostly solid in goal this season, but the most important piece is midfielder Dax McCarty, who covers enormous amounts of ground in front of the backline. He's absolutely vital to the the New York midfield and serves as a space eater ahead of the center backs.
Possible Starting XI: Robles (GK), Kimura, Holgersson, Olave, Pearce, Alexander, McCarty, Steele, Juninho, Cahill, Luyindula (4-4-2)
It's been 253 minutes since New York last scored. The Red Bulls were up 1-0 in San Jose before collapsing late and losing 2-1.
A great stat from goal.com writer Keith Hickey: "Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, and Juninho have combined for a whopping 0 goals and 0 assists this season."
Mike Petke spoke with the KYW Philly Soccer Show ahead of this Saturday's game. Click here to listen to the podcast.