We’re four days away from the Red Bulls’ 2014 home opener at Red Bull Arena against the Colorado Rapids. With a lot of anticipation for the 4:00 PM clash, here are five things to watch for leading up to Saturday’s match.
1) Bouncing back at home
The Red Bulls suffered a tough defeat at the hands of Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place on Saturday in the first match of the regular season. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored the lone goal for the Red Bulls in the first minute of extra time after New York allowed four goals in regulation. New York will look to bounce back, and earn its’ first win of the young season. After the match, head coach Mike Petke and the players said that they need to refocus following the opening result.
"We will put it behind us," said midfielder Lloyd Sam. "I'm looking forward to next week just to put this one behind us, erase it from our memory. Hopefully it's a quick week and we can play again at home and set it right."
2) Celebrating the Shield
Prior to Saturday’s match, the Red Bulls and their fans will celebrate winning the 2013 Supporters’ Shield after finishing the season with the best regular season record in the league. During the pre-match ceremony, the Red Bulls will unveil their Supporters’ Shield banner. The presentation will not be your typical banner unveiling! From a special video, incorporating The South Ward, and some surprises, expect the unexpected as we pay homage to the MLS Supporters' Shield.
3) Who will make the Starting XI?
Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry and defender Jamison Olave will both be available for selection when the Red Bulls face the Rapids on Saturday. After both not playing Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Vancouver, Henry and Olave will look to get back on the pitch and help their team get its first win of the 2014 season while Wright-Phillips will be looking to make the Starting XI following his opening strike. This could cause some selection issues for Petke in determining which players to select on his deep roster.
Here was the lineup Petke put out for the season opener in Vancouver:
Luis Robles, Richard Eckersley, Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, Bobby Convey, Lloyd Sam, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Jonny Steele, Tim Cahill, Peguy Luyindula
4) Home sweet home at Red Bull Arena
The team really enjoys its home field advantage and looks forward to playing in front of its supporters on Saturday. New York is 11-3-4 all-time in its home openers and the team was 11-2-4 when playing at Red Bull Arena last season. It has not lost a home opener since 2003.
The Red Bulls have not lost a regular season home game since a 2-1 defeat against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on June 1 at Red Bull Arena. Since then, the Red Bulls have a 7-0-2 record in regular season games at Red Bull Arena.
5) Rapids’ coach makes his debut
For a consecutive week the Red Bulls will face a team with a rookie head coach. On Saturday, the Colorado Rapids officially announced that Pablo Mastroeni will be the team’s new head coach. Mastroeni, who retired last offseason after playing more than 11 seasons in Colorado, is often referred to as the Rapids’ most decorated player. He was also teammates with Petke at Colorado from 2005-2008.
“It is a great honor to take this new position at the Rapids, a club which means a great deal to me and my family,” said Mastroeni. “I have seen this team’s ability and potential up close over the last two months, and I can’t wait for the season to get started.”
The Red Bulls and Rapids last regular season meeting came last year on July 4 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids defeated the Red Bulls 2-0. New York is 15-17-5 all-time against Colorado and 9-7-2 against the Rapids at home. New York hosted Colorado in its season opener in 2012 – the last time the Rapids visited Red Bull Arena – and came away with a 4-1 win behind a pair of Thierry Henry goals.