The New York Red Bulls are staring at a critical stretch of games over the next 20 days and it starts with this weekend’s league match against the visiting Impact. Montreal are at the bottom of the league standings but have found success outside of league play by winning their second straight Canadian Championship and with two victories over C.D. FAS in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
The Red Bulls are in need of three points at home this weekend after losing in Chicago, 1-0. Before that loss, the team had gone 3-1-5 since a 2-1 home defeat against Portland. This could also be the night in which Bradley Wright-Phillips ties, and maybe even surpasses, Juan Pablo Angel’s record 19 league goals.
Here are five storylines to watch for this Saturday night:
1. BWP hasn’t gone more than one game without a goal since April
You read that correctly. Since April 16, Wright-Phillips has scored in 12 of 16 matches, not including the MLS All-Star Game and a game-winning goal in a friendly against Arsenal. Over that stretch, the striker has had three separate streaks of games in a row with at least one goal scored. As most fans of MLS should know, Bradley is the MLS Golden Boot leader, two ahead of Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer. BWP is also on the cusp of breaking a club record and has a lot of time to race away from JPA. The Red Bulls will certainly hope his scoring continues in the Champions League and the odds are good that the Englishmen will find himself on the scoresheet because, as mentioned, it’s been four full months since he has gone two games without a goal.
2. This is the Red Bulls’ Champions League opponent
Montreal has already played and defeated the third member of Group 3, C.D. FAS, twice, both home and away. That puts the Impact in great position with six points from two games. All four remaining games involve the Red Bulls with the first game coming at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night, August 26. So New York has gotten a good look at both teams in preparation for the four upcoming fixtures and this Saturday night. New York should be at an advantage as the Impact fielded a strong side on Wednesday night. It is imperative to get all three points against a weakened Impact team.
3. Continue good home form
The Red Bulls are 4-2-4 this season at Red Bull Arena after two seasons with identical 11-2-4 records. To match that, New York will have to win all seven home matches remaining on the schedule. Against Montreal in Harrison, the Red Bulls have a 3-0 record with 11 goals scored and just three goals conceded. The first time the two teams ever met, on March 31, 2012, Thierry Henry scored a hat trick and had one assist during a 5-2 rout at Red Bull Arena. The other two times Montreal has come to New Jersey, both last season, Henry scored an additional three goals and provided two assists. Put simply, the French forward loves playing against the Impact and it shows in his seven total goals against the club – his most ever against a single MLS opponent.
4. Critical stretch upcoming
After Saturday night, the Red Bulls face a very short turnaround before hosting C.D. FAS on Tuesday night. D.C. United away follows on August 31 followed by hosting Sporting Kansas City on September 6 and D.C. United on September 10. For those scoring at home, that’s three matches in 11 days against the East’s top two teams. So far against those two teams, New York is 0-1-1 this season. The season gets even denser after that stretch but those 11 days will be crucial to the Red Bulls solidifying themselves in the playoff picture. The good news is that Mike Petke has a fully-fit starting eleven to work with.
5. What has Montreal done lately?
The Impact are in last place in the league with 17 points from 23 games and a 4-14-5 record. They have scored the second-fewest goals in the league and allowed the second-most. The team hasn’t really dealt with injuries this season, Jack McInerney and Marco Di Vaio are a fearsome striking pair, and Justin Mapp is having yet another steady campaign with eight assists. The team’s form outside of MLS has been solid and they will be in the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League after winning their second straight Canadian Championship. The Impact have made news recently by signing their third-ever Designated Player, Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti, from San Lorenzo. Piatti, 29, has had a very good career in South America and has already shown his ability to change a game. With their new DP, Montreal defeated Chicago, 1-0, and C.D. FAS just four days later, 3-2, with Piatti assisting on Di Vaio’s first of two goals.
Kick-off from Red Bull Arena is slated for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on MSG with the pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are still available.