(Updated) home opener thoughts and projected starting lineup

Posted on 25 March 2010 by ASN Staff

The “grand opening” of Red Bull Arena is still fresh in everybody’s mind but starting this weekend the games will count. There will be 14 opportunities to see the New York Red Bulls at home in MLS regular season action after this, but already a lot is riding on Saturday night’s match with the Chicago Fire. As great as the Santos match was, it will mean nothing if the team gets off to another bad start.

Juan Agudelo against Santos ©ASN/Scott Marsh

Chicago is not the ideal opponent for the team to face in this situation. The Red Bulls have lost their last five meetings with the Fire and have an overall 11-23-6 record against them (information supplied by Metrofanatic.com). However, this is a different team from the one the Red Bulls faced the last few years. Gone are Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Chris Rolfe, Bakary Soumare and Jon Busch. New head coach Carlos de los Cobos brings an entirely different style from his predecessors Denis Hamlett and Juan Carlos Osorio. Expect the new Fire to aim for possession control and short passes. It won’t quite be the Osorio-style of bunkering (then again, what is?) but it will be conservative and defensive–especially playing in a packed house as the visiting team.

To counter this, Red Bull head coach Hans Backe will want speed on the flanks and more of the quick passing out of midfield that successfully sprung attacks against Santos. The last few days have brought good news on the injury front, with star striker Juan Pablo Angel telling Big Apple Soccer he was “hopeful” of a full recovery by Saturday. Dane Richards also returned to practice Thursday. The previous day, Carl Robinson tweeted that he had a “great day” of training and that things were “improving very well.” But he missed the following day because he was in Toronto sorting out visa issues (this also from his Tweets). We expect Robinson to start on the bench.

Update: Soccer by Ives and the New York Post are reporting Juan Agudelo has signed with the team as a “home grown” player. This makes Agudelo available for the match. We think he will start up top with Angel. Kandji, whom we had starting at that position previously, will start on the bench though there is a very real possibility he could start at left midfield. Meanwhile, Robinson remains stuck in Toronto with visa issues. This reinforces our suspicion that he will not be available tomorrow–or at least not as a starter after missing two days’ worth of training. These news items are reflected this in our projected starting lineup below.

da Luz–Lindpere–Ubiparipovic–Richards

The need for speed on the flanks, along with Roy Miller’s unsatisfactory contribution to the team’s attack will push Austin da Luz into the starting lineup. We do not anticipate Macoumba Kandji will last for a starter much longer. As soon as either Ibrahim Salou or Juan Agudelo are signed and/or receive the proper visas, Kandji will be relegated to bench duty and spot starter status. In this role could also see some time at left midfield, where he started the second half of the Santos match. But for now, experience is in short supply so Kandji gets the nod. Backe does not seem to view the team’s most experienced forward, John Wolyniec, as anything other than an emergency starter. The Swedish coach could also start Conor Chinn, who has seen a lot of time and scored several goals in preseason (though not against Santos). If nothing else, Chinn should make the bench. So should Woly.

What do you think of this starting lineup? Do you like Austin da Luz as the starting left midfielder? Post your thoughts on these and other matters in the comment area below.

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