New faces face new questions

Posted on 19 March 2009 by arozsa

Osorio holds court at RBNY media day (©First Row Photos)There are new faces everywhere. The lineup? A mystery. The formation? Well that all depends. If it is unclear which team I’m talking about at this point, then we’re on the same page.

Thursday night’s season opener pits the ever-changing foreign legion of New York against the permanently promoted Seattle Sounders in a match-up that is chock full of equal parts excitement and, well, utter confusion.

New York fans are assuredly accustomed to turnover by now. But the amount of new faces in town just four months after the long suffering club’s first MLS Cup Final appearance may be a bit of an eyebrow raiser to the outsider. However, Juan Carlos Osorio really hasn’t changed the team as drastically as it seems, replacing his failed corps of hand-picked Central American defenders with…different ones. Dave van den Bergh, one of the few mainstays of last year’s edition, was respectfully given his leave for family reasons, but rumor has it that it was the Dutchman’s remarkable Midwest accent that prompted his dismissal.

Seattle, of course, was always going to be a question mark. Sigi Schmid, who played foil to the Red Bulls surprise title hopes last fall, now takes the role of architect, engineer and benevolent, rotund deity for the Sounders. He found success with his Columbus Crew side by means of fielding a consistent lineup around the lynchpin Guillermo Baros Schelotto. Now with a roster mixed with USL-1 standouts, MLS journeymen, highly-touted imports and limping underwear models, it’s anyone’s guess as what Schmid is going to throw out there opening night.

Of course, by anyone, I mean me. This is a preview piece, supposedly.

Projected lineups:

New York (4-3-3): Danny Cepero, Kevin Goldthwaite, Andrew Boyens*, Mike Petke, Jeremy Hall, Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovich, Jorge Rojas, Dominic Oduro, Juan Pablo Angel, Dane Richards

(*Not on the injury report, but Brian Lewis of the New York Post is reporting Boyens is unavailable)

Key bench players: Macoumba Kandji, John Wolyniec, Matthew Mbuta, Juan Pietravallo, Carlos Mendes

Missing players: Jon Conway (suspension), Khano Smith (suspension), Seth Stammler (injury), Alfredo Pacheco (not signed), Carlos Johnson (not signed), Albert Celades (not signed)

Seattle: (4-4-2): Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Hurtado, James Riley, Sebastian Le Toux, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Sanna Nyassi, Nate Jaqua, Fredy Montero

Key bench players: Steve Zakuani, Stephen King, Patrick Ianni, Tyson Wahl, Nathan Sturgis

Missing players: Freddie Ljungberg (injury), Jarrod Smith (injury), Pete Vagenas (injury)
So how do the teams stack up side by side?

Goalkeepers: If there were two players with a bigger disparity in experience, I’d like to see it. Unless Kasey Keller has adopted my personal fitness regime the last 18 months, he immediately is among the league’s best. Advantage: Seattle

Centerbacks: Petke has gotten good reviews in the preseason, and should perform adequately until his 33 year legs get turf-angry. Boyens gets the nod because Osorio is still upset after finding out that Carlos Mendes is American. Seattle has one experienced (and foul-prone) performer in Marshall and a potential rock in Hurtado. Advantage: Push

Fullbacks: Goldthwaite and Hall occupy the corners for the Red Bulls for now, and both are superb athletes but with questionable ability to play the position completely. Seattle, however, has all-time expansion draft king Riley and a USL guy on the flanks, and are most likely having unpleasant dreams about dealing with Richards and Oduro. Advantage: New York

Midfield: Sigi Schmid seemed lukewarm about his central midfield pairing after the scrimmage with Colorado, but frankly, they are all he has. One of the two needs to become close friends with Jorge Rojas, however, as he’ll be bereft of all defensive responsibility by Sassano and Sinisa and will be looking to play through his speedy flank players all night. Advantage: New York

Forwards: Yes, Fredy Montero’s signing was a major success for Seattle. But all 30,000 scarf-clad Seattleites will be expecting this young man to carry the load for this new team, and not every player can carry that weight. Conversely, Juan Pablo Angel will draw several defenders every time he ventures into the box; that is until the Sounders backline starts nervously glancing side to side for a sight of Richards or Oduro getting behind them. Advantage: New York

Bench: New York has speed (Kandji, Mbuta) and experience (Wolyniec, Mendes, Pietravallo) waiting in the wings. Seattle is woefully thin, as to be expected from an expansion side. Steve Zakuani and Nathan Sturgis are both less than 100%, making matters even worse. Advantage: New York

Overall, it’s a walk on paper for New York. Its rebuilt roster is speedy and deep, and the Sounders backline will have a hard time dealing with it. However, if Seattle can get an early goal and feed off the crowd, which is certain to be flush with bottomless optimism, then an inaugural win for them is easily possible.

Prediction: 1-1 draw
, with Seattle’s crowd willing them to it.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. j latest soccer news Says:

    I cant wait for the game tonight. The NYRB have great team speed. Their defense needs improvement. JPA could have a 20+ goals this season.

  2. Kimberly Sloan Says:

    Thanks so much. Very useful in my opinion – Keep up!

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