The march to D.C. is on!What to expect from this weekend's sojourn?

Posted on 30 April 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

After an interlude of wintry weather, spring is back in full force for this weekend’s game at RFK Stadium, where the New York Red Bulls take on archrivals DC United (sorry Philly. Maybe after you take a point from us?) A sizable contingent of New York fans will make the trip to the nation’s capital, hoping to see their team continue its hot start. Almost equally important, of course, is the task of prolonging DC’s miserable 0-4 start to the MLS regular season.

On paper, the Red Bulls should be the clear favorites–even though DC looked good defeating FC Dallas in their mid-week U.S. Open Cup match. Hans Backe’s team is off to its best-ever start and earlier this year proved it can win on the road with a 1-0 win at Seattle Sounders FC.

But two things speak against New York’s role as favorites. First off, this is MLS. What is a truism in nearly every other league in the world–that on any given matchday any team can win its game–is cold, hard fact in this league. Certainly home field advantage and injuries play their role but for all intents and purposes it’s a crapshoot. Flip a coin and it’s likely to be a better indicator of any prediction.

Second, while the Red Bulls’ record is indeed stellar, every one of its wins has come by a one-goal margin. In at least one or two of those (Chicago, Dallas) New York was not even the best team on the pitch. Its one impressive victory came with a side made up mainly of reserves.

Also, we’ve been here before. The Red Bulls entered their match with Chivas USA in similar circumstances; that is, New York was flying high and Chivas were still seeking their first win and frankly looking rather clueless doing it. We all know what happened. Chivas didn’t play particularly well, but New York did play particularly poorly, especially at one position (you know who you are, Bouna Condoul) before losing 2-0.

Lest we forget, the Red Bulls have never won at RFK since, well, ever. (It’s true the team’s last win at RFK came when they were the MetroStars). And Luciano Emilio will be available to come off the bench for DC United. He may even start. With him and Jaime Moreno, DC are a different foe.

From Hans Backe’s side, expect the identical starting lineup to the first Philly game, though there is a slight chance Seth Stammler or Tony Tchani could take Carl Robinson’s place as holding midfielder. Both played very well in the US Open Cup win, while Robinson was very poor in his last start. Then again, Backe has been impervious to lineup moves for reasons other than injuries so unless Robbo has reaggravated his injury, don’t count on it.

Frankly, a lot probably hangs on Juan Pablo Angel’s form and fitness. The former Aston Villa man has not been himself since the vicious tackle by Julian de Guzman in the preseason. If Angel is anything close to full strength, it could be a long day for United and their fans. If not, a hobbled JPA could seriously disrupt the flow of the team’s attack. It will also be interesting to watch Salou Ibrahim in his second regular season start. The Ghanaian played very well against Philly and there is reason to expect even better things from him against DC.

Despite all this, I optimistically predicted a 3-1 victory in the most recent Seeing Red Episode. What’s yours?

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