MLS playoff focus: Notes on New York Red Bulls ahead of Wednesday’s second leg in New Jersey

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  • Thinking through Jamison Olave’s absence

First, the basics: It seems logical to assume that Markus Holgersson will slide over from his recent home at right back to take Jamison Olave’s spot in the middle, alongside Ibrahim Sekagya. Holgersson is really a center back anyway, although he doesn’t physically dominate the middle the way New York’s big, surprisingly fast Colombian can.

(By the way, it was Holgersson who lost Bobby Boswell on Sunday’s telling, 92nd minute goal. Yes, it was Omar Cummings who stuck in the rebound at the far post, but it was Boswell’s unchallenged header that really put the Red Bulls in trouble on that one.)

Petke must choose a right back: the choices include Brandon Barklage and Kosuke Kimura. Barklage came in Sunday as manager Mike Petke shuffled the back line after Olave’s ejection.Barklage started 20 matches this year for New York; Kimura started 15.

Petke could also shuffle the back line even further and re-introduce Costa Rican international Roy Miller, just back from injury, into the lineup.

Back to Olave’s importance, and this part is interesting: According to Opta, the Red Bulls are 15-6-6 with 1.1 goals against when Olave takes a spot in the lineup. They are just 2-3-2 with 1.6 goals against on average when the big Colombian has been absent.

  • Yellow card warnings

Four Red Bulls are already on yellow card warning, meaning they will sit out a match with one more booking. The list: Thierry Henry, Jonny Steele, David Carney and Barklage.

Corey Ashe and Boniek Garcia are on warning for the Dynamo.

(MORE: Preview of Wednesday’s match at Red Bull Arena)

  • Hearing from Mike Petke

Hard to say how the Red Bulls might respond to the way things unfolded. On the one hand a draw on the road to begin these  aggregate goals series is pretty good. Most times, teams will take it and go skipping away.

But squandering a 2-0 halftime lead might make this one feel different. Here’s what Pekte had to say: “The red card killed us. Those goals are our fault. It wasn’t something created out of spectacular stuff. It was self-inflicted on us.”

“The rule of thumb is on the road, if you get a tie and go home to your place and it’s pretty much 0-0, it’s a good thing. But our guys are angry at the way that we allowed them back in the game.”

(MORE: What we learned in Sunday’s first-leg series draw)

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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De Rossi admits desire to beat young teammates with bat

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Daniele De Rossi doesn’t like the modern world.

Okay, okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the Roma legend dropped a funny quote when discussing the differences between young players these days and those when he began his career.

A one-club man, the 33-year-old De Rossi has played in 556 matches for i Lupi and admits that he probably flummoxed veterans when he began his career because that’s the cyclical nature of adulthood.

From Italia Football:

“When we started out, it was all different, that was 20 years ago. Now a 20-year-old will get into the first team and have more Instagram followers than Messi. When I was young, the older players would say ‘it wasn’t like in my day’ – that’s life and it always will be.

“Mind you, some of them irritate me too. When I see them do live Instagram videos from inside the locker room before a game, I’d like to take a baseball bat to their teeth… But they’re 18 years old and in 20 years’ time they will find themselves complaining about the youth of today.”

Mmmm, tastes like ash and hickory.

It’s a safe bet that De Rossi isn’t wild about Stephan El Shaarawy’s hair, we imagine, but living legends generally get a little leeway with their comments in the media.

Plus, it sounds like he has the wisdom to understand the “why” and at least channel his angry into tackles.