The New York Red Bulls are coming off a hard-fought 1-1 draw on the road at Rio Tinto Stadium, their first point in Salt Lake since 2008.
The result brings the Red Bulls to a 5-6-10 record overall this season but bumps them slightly out of the playoff picture, with 25 points from 21 games. However, after a tough three-game losing streak in mid-May, the club has lost just one game in the two-plus months since, with an overall 2-1-5 record. Not to mention the confidence booster of defeating last year’s FA Cup Champions Arsenal FC in last weekend’s friendly at Red Bull Arena. This weekend, the I-95 rivalry once again takes center stage with the opportunity for the Red Bulls to sweep the Revs in the season series for the first time in league history. The Revs, meanwhile, have snapped an eight-game losing streak with an impressive 3-0 shutout victory over Colorado in midweek.
Here are five storylines to watch for during this weekend’s contest:
1. Crunch Time
“We’re close to the point in the season when you’re going to stop saying a point is good on the road, but tonight it’s a good point,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke after Wednesday night’s draw in Salt Lake.
With three months and 14 matches remaining, it is becoming more and more important to get results, both home and away. There are only three games between this Saturday night and August 23, but every week after that, until October, will have three games per week. The good news for the Red Bulls is that everyone is fit and the depth is the best it has been all season. There is still plenty of time but, as it stands today, the Red Bulls are, just barely, on the wrong side of the playoff divide. New York’s next three opponents are struggling: New England have just snapped an eight-game losing streak in which they scored just four goals, Chicago sits in eight place and have the most draws in the league, and the Montreal Impact are 19th out of 19 places in MLS. With three games after that against the East’s top two teams, DC United and Sporting Kansas City, it is vital that the Red Bulls maximize their points in August.
2. Three League Leaders
Luis Robles’ two saves against Salt Lake propelled him back above Portland’s Donovan Ricketts for the league lead with 70. Robles led the league for over two months in the middle of the season. With his ascension back atop the standings, the Red Bulls once again hold the three major statistical categories in MLS. Bradley Wright-Phillips has 17 goals, three more than Dom Dwyer and Erick Torres, Thierry Henry has 10 assists, two more than six players, and Robles now leads a tight two-man race with Ricketts. Going one further, the Red Bulls as a team have 36 assists, which is also the most in the league.
3. BWP the All-Star and potential July Player of the Month
Bradley Wright-Phillips did not score against Real Salt Lake and it was the first such occurrence since the Red Bulls defeated the Revolution on June 8 in Foxborough, a five-game and nearly two-month stretch. The striker hasn’t cooled down since scoring the first of 16 goals over his last 14 games on April 23 against Houston. He leads the league in scoring and has three more than Dom Dwyer and Erick Torres and is averaging just under a goal per 90 minutes this season, which is also tops in MLS. Wright-Phillips was selected by Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, who is also the coach of the 2014 All-Star team, to his first MLS All-Star team and is up for July Player of the Month honors. You can vote for that here.
4. Continue Home Form vs. NE
Just like the Red Bulls hadn’t won in Foxborough since 2002 before a win in June, the Revs have had their share of taboo in New Jersey with no victories at either Giants Stadium or Red Bull Arena since July 14, 2007. Over that span, the Red Bulls have compiled a 4-0-5 and, expanding that, an undefeated 4-0-1 record at Red Bull Arena. In one of the league’s original rivalries, the Red Bulls hold an excellent 16-8-8 record at home over the Revs, with 66 goals scored and 46 conceded.
5. What have the Revs done recently?
The Revolution spent six weeks atop the Eastern Conference after a blistering April and May in which the team went 6-1-2. A loss in Montreal on May 31 started an eight-game losing streak in which the club conceded 19 goals while scoring just four of their own. Surprisingly, only the last loss against Columbus dropped the team outside of the top five in the parity-driven East but with the shutout against Colorado in midweek, the Revs jumped back up to third. In the last meeting between the two teams, on June 8 in New England, the Red Bulls were victorious 2-0 despite being outshot 24-8. Peguy Luyindula and Eric Alexander were the scorers for New York in a game that was also 18-year-old central defender Matt Miazga’s first career league start.
The match will kick-off from Red Bull Arena at 7 p.m. Pre-game coverage on MSG will begin at 6:30 p.m. Fans who have tickets to the match will have the chance to stay at Red Bull Arena and watch the Red Bulls U-23s take on Chattanooga FC in the National Premier Soccer League National Championship. Kick-off for that match is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
Tickets are on sale now for the Red Bulls-Revolution match by calling 1.877.727.6223 or logging onto tickets.newyorkredbulls.com.