Neither of these MLS heavies are where they want to be seven weeks into the season. Yes, there is still much soccer ahead. But there’s a lot of deflated return on high expectations so far in 2013 – and the pressure builds for something more with each passing week.
D.C. United cannot score.
One of the team’s prized young midfielders, Nick DeLeon, is hurt. The other, Chris Pontius, just isn’t delivering as expected. Dwayne De Rosario sat out United’s first pair of matches for some preseason foolishness, and now he’s hurt. Throw in Lionard Pajoy’s continued inability to find goal and get a five-game opening series with a lousy two goals.
That puts United 9th in the 10-team Eastern Conference, which is hardly the place anyone expected to find Ben Olsen’s team, one that missed a trip to the MLS Cup final by just a single goal last year.
Mike Petke’s Red Bulls are just a little better at 7th in the East. They are doing OK scoring goals – no surprise considering a roster filled with the likes to Thierry Henry, EPL veteran Tim Cahill and MLS A-lister Fabian Espindola. The Red Bulls’ obvious weakness is preventing them.
They might be a little higher today in the standings but for last week’s late, defensive collapse at Toyota Park. About to cruise Chicago with a 1-1 draw, the Red Bulls allowed two late goals to drop a 3-1 result, which was Chicago’s initial win this year.
As this preview piece points out, New York is therefore responsible for 75 percent of the goals that offensively challenged Chicago has put away in 2013. Not good.
This is one of Major League Soccer’s heavyweight rivalries. In fact, it’s their second meeting this year after an early (and rather peculiar) 0-0 draw back in Week 3. The Red Bulls did pretty much anything they wanted that day to the Olsen’s team, except for score. Petke’s group outshot United 24-5 that day at Red Bull Arena.
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was quite The Man in that one.
Otherwise, Perry Kitchen has been big in United’s midfield. And center back Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald have been solid.
Dax McCarty has continued to impress in the Red Bulls’ midfield. Henry is still a game-changer, although he’s been limited with injuries again this year. He should have a big role today, apparently likely to start for the first time since these teams’ last meeting, back on March 16.