The Red Bulls suffered their first home defeat in 14 matches, 5-4 against the Chicago Fire. New York will look to bounce back and gain some separation in the East this weekend against a struggling Toronto side when the two teams take to the pitch for a 4:30 kickoff at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon (Live on MSG+ starting at 4:00 PM).
1. BWP is En Fuego
In case you haven’t noticed, New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips is the hottest forward in Major League Soccer. The Englishman has scored eight goals over his last four matches, including two hat tricks, en route to quickly ascending the top of the MLS Golden Boot standings. Wright-Phillips notched his second hat trick of the season last Saturday against Chicago and now stands alone with nine goals on the young season. Can he continue his roll up north in Toronto?
2. Can the Red Bulls bounce back on the road?
New York begins a stretch that sees them take to the road for three of their next four matches. The team is coming off a frustrating 5-4 home defeat at the hands of previously-winless Chicago and need points to create separation in the East. The upcoming schedule is somewhat daunting: a home match against Portland and road games against Toronto and the two teams tied for first in the East, Sporting Kansas City and New England. Points against the Reds this weekend are crucial. Toronto have struggled recently, however, losing three straight including their last two at home.
3. Who replaces Cahill and Miller?
The World Cup is less than a month away and while that is certainly cause for celebration, several MLS teams do have to account for their star players making the trip to Brazil. New York will lose midfielder Tim Cahill (Australia) and defender Roy Miller (Costa Rica) for at least one month to the tournament. Head coach Mike Petke has a squad selection dilemma on his hands but can take solace in the fact that Toronto will likely be without American midfield maestro Michael Bradley this weekend and for the Reds’ trip to Red Bull Arena in late June as well.
4. Who will step up?
The losses of Cahill and Miller come at a difficult portion of the schedule and with the team needing to continue gathering points to stay near the top of the Eastern conference. Replacing Cahill will be easier knowing New York has the league’s hottest striker and one of the league’s top talents in Thierry Henry. Henry is cruising along with three goals and four assists and only needs four more helpers to tie the all-time record of 36, jointly held by Amado Guevara and current U.S. U-20 Head Coach Tab Ramos. The replacing of Roy Miller, starter of the team’s previous nine games, will be more difficult. Potential replacements include Bobby Convey, Connor Lade, and Ambroise Oyongo.
5. Can the defense get back on track?
Last week and for only the second time all season, the New York defense let up four or more goals. The last time this occurred was in week one on the road at Vancouver. Between that opening day loss and the loss against Chicago, the Red Bulls back four have only let up two goals or more just once (at Montreal on April 5th). For the first time all season, veteran goalkeeper Luis Robles was held without a single save. Despite the performance, Robles still finds himself atop the MLS leaderboard with 41 saves on the season, seven more than former Toronto keeper and now Seattle net-minder Stefan Frei (34). This weekend’s match-up will be key to getting back to that defensive success the team has enjoyed for much of the season.