In the second game of a two-game homestand, the Red Bulls will seek playoff revenge and look to pick up their second win of the season against their Eastern Conference opponent the Houston Dynamo.
Here are five things to watch for on Wednesday evening as the Red Bulls battle the Dynamo at 7:30 PM at Red Bull Arena.
1. Can New York continue regular season dominance over Houston?
On Wednesday, the Houston Dynamo will visit Red Bull Arena for the first time this season. In 2013, the Red Bulls swept the season series, 3-0, against the Dynamo while allowing just one goal in three games.
Against the Dynamo, the Red Bulls are unbeaten in 12 of the last 13 regular season meetings between the two clubs dating back to 2008. New York has an all-time record of 8-3-7 against Houston and has never lost to the Dynamo at home in the regular season (6-0-3). Wednesday will be the first of three meetings between the two sides this season. On July 4, the Red Bulls will visit BBVA Compass Stadium and on October 4, Houston will travel to New York to take on the Red Bulls.
2. Can the Red Bulls get playoff revenge against Houston?
While the Red Bulls dominated their recent regular season meetings against the Dynamo, they did not have that same success when the two sides met in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. New York and Houston met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season with Houston eliminating the Supporters’ Shield-winning Red Bulls. In the first leg at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Red Bulls jumped out to an early 2-0 first half lead behind goals from Tim Cahill and Eric Alexander. After playing with the lead for the whole match, the Red Bulls allowed a goal in stoppage time when Omar Cummings found the back of the net to tie the game at two.
In the second leg of the semifinals at Red Bull Arena, Cummings proved to be the hero again for the Dynamo with his goal in the 104th minute. Despite outplaying the Houston for much of the series, the Dynamo won the aggregate series 4-3 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would ultimately be eliminated by the MLS Cup Champion Sporting Kansas City.
3. Will the Red Bulls’ strong home form continue?
Last Wednesday evening at Red Bull Arena, the Red Bulls earned their first win of the season against the Philadelphia Union. Thierry Henry (57th minute) and Lloyd Sam (67th minute) both scored to help New York earn the victory.
Before the Red Bulls-Union match, Cahill predicted that a win over Philadelphia at home could be the start of the Red Bulls season.
“The fans are excited, I’m excited, and I feel for us this is where our season starts. I’m ready and I hope the boys are too,” the Australian told reporters before the match at training.
The boys were ready and the fans were energized after the 2-1 victory. Since a 2-1 defeat against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on June 1, 2013 at Red Bull Arena, New York is on a 12-regular season game unbeaten run on their home field (8-0-4). With the South Ward behind them, can the Red Bulls make it 13 straight games without a loss in Harrison?
4. Cahill and Armando return
The Red Bulls are closer to returning to full health. On Wednesday against the Union, Cahill and defender Armando both came into the game as second half substitutions after missing games due to hamstring injuries. Armando’s return is especially of note considering the fact that centerback Ibrahim Sekagya is suspended for the Dynamo clash after receiving a red card for a handball in the box against the Union. With Cahill back in contention for a spot as well as Armando’s return, how will head coach Mike Petke line the players up on Wednesday?
5. How to deal with the busy schedule?
After having the holiday weekend off, the Red Bulls have two matches within three days, with the Houston match taking place on Wednesday before the team travels to face the Columbus Crew on Saturday. With the Red Bulls looking to win consecutive matches for the first time in 2014, Petke will have to determine if he wants to manage minutes among his players to provide the best outcome for both matches.