5 Things to Watch: Red Bulls Prepare to Start Shield Defense in Vancouver

New York looks to keep regular season unbeaten streak alive, face a familiar face

We’re five days away from the start of the Red Bulls’ campaign to defend the MLS Supporters’ Shield, when they kick off the 2014 regular season against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. To mark the day, here are five things to look for heading into this week.

1) Red Bulls wrap up preseason by scoring four in preseason finale

New York finished its preseason schedule and two weeks in Kissimmee, FL with a goal-filled 4-4 tie against Orlando City SC as part of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice, while Jonny Steele and Ibrahim Sekagya also found the back of the net. The Red Bulls had the highest-scoring offense in the league with 58 goals and were able to find success in the attack without MLS All-Stars Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill in the lineup.

“Our ball movement at times was the best so far that we’ve had so far in preseason, specifically the first 10 minutes of the game and then bits and pieces throughout that half and second half large, chunks of it,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke following the tie. “We found those pockets to get in, get behind them. Peguy [Luyindula] did wonders with the ball today; it’s good to see Bradley [Wright-Phillips] get on the score sheet with two goals.”

2014 Preseason Match Schedule (3-1-1)

-       Red Bulls 2, Philadelphia Union 1 (February 12, 2014; Jacksonville, FL): RECAP | REACTION

-       Red Bulls 0, Sporting Kansas City 1 (February 19, 2014; Kissimmee, FL): RECAP | HIGHLIGHTS | REACTION | PHOTOS

-       Red Bulls 3, Montreal Impact 0 (February 22, 2014; Kissimmee, FL): RECAP | HIGHLIGHTS | REACTION | PHOTOS

-       Red Bulls vs. Fluminense Under-23 at 3:00 PM (February 26, 2014; Kissimmee, FL) RECAP | HIGHLIGHTS | REACTION | PHOTOS

-       Red Bulls 4 vs. Orlando City SC 4 (March 1, 2014; Kissimmee, FL) RECAP | HIGHLIGHTS | REACTION

2) Who will make the Starting XI?

With Red Bulls duo Cahill and Roy Miller away on international duty this week, this presents Petke with several selection decisions. The team has depth but plugging in players who could get a result at a hostile BC Place will be an interesting challenge. Here was the lineup that Petke put out against Orlando City: Luis Robles, Chris Duvall, Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, Kosuke Kimura, Lloyd Sam, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Jonny Steele, Peguy Luyindula, Bradley Wright-Phillips

“We’re always looking towards Vancouver. The lineup that I put out there tonight is not going to be the one that starts against Vancouver. There’s a lot that’s going to happen between now and then. However, having said that, look at a young guy like Chris Duvall, we wanted to see him tonight and see if he could play in that type of atmosphere in somewhat of a first team game and he did very well,” Petke said.

3) Can the Red Bulls continue their roll?

While New York was knocked out by Houston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year, the Red Bulls have not lost a regular season game since a 3-2 defeat at CD Chivas USA on Aug. 25 at StubHub Center. Since then, New York went 6-0-2 and won the Supporters’ Shield.

4) New coach, familiar face.

Second-year head coach Petke can relate to the current experiences of his counterpart on the Vancouver bench – Carl Robinson. Robinson was a player and coach for the Red Bulls from 2010-11 and knows Petke and the team well during his time in New York. The Welshman was named Whitecaps FC head coach in the offseason and Vancouver’s official site had a good feature on Robinson taking on his former club.

5) Let the predictions begin.

As the season draws closer, different media outlets will be providing their predictions on the 2014 regular season. Here are two from ESPN’s Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas and Fox Sports’ Kyle McCarthy.