This is a big week for the Red Bulls MLS team and its farm team, the Red Bulls II. The MLS team will take on FC Cincinnati tonight, who have been an improved team this season. Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls II will be in Pittsburgh to take on the Riverhounds, who are one of their bitterest rivals.
The more interesting narrative is the Red Bulls' first team who are comfortably in fourth place in the Eastern conference standings and just six points behind their rivals, New York City FC for third. Let's look at their next match tomorrow night against another one of their conference rivals.
Previewing the Red Bulls Next Match
It's been a little over a month since the Red Bulls faced Cincy, where they would earn only a point. Cincinnati went down to 10 men early in the second half before Luciano Acosta headbutted Aaron Long and was sent off in stoppage time. This and the fact that Cincinnati are in great form lately means the Red Bulls will need to be on their A game to earn three points at home.
Two weeks ago, Cincinnati won their last game, but it wasn't just any game-- they beat Philadelphia, the top team in MLS's Eastern Conference. Cincinnati won that game 3-1 and their leading striker, Brandon Vazquez scored a goal.
One of the main reasons that FC Cincinnati are an improved team this season has been the play of their captain Acosta. The Argentine midfielder has put up six goals and a league-leading 14 assists so far, but he was held off the scoresheet during that last meeting against Gerhard Struber's team.
Acosta is not the only offensive weapon that Cincinnati has. The other is Vazquez, a big and powerful striker whose 15 goals is tied for the second-most in MLS. Vazquez did score the first goal in that last meeting, and he is a player that Struber says will be important to stop on Saturday.
It’s a challenge, but my trust is with my boys, and we can handle that. Of course, we know [Brandon] Vazquez’s power, and they have more players in the attacking area. They can create, they are dynamic, and have tripling power with good forward runs and create difficult moments. We have to be very smart in our position, in rest defense [to] stop this. I have a good feeling that we can handle that.
Luckily, the Red Bulls have a very strong backline that just added left-back Kyle Duncan back into the mix. Since returning from his loan in Belgium, Duncan has played in his club's last two games and earned an assist in the last game against Atlanta United.
One of the key members of this backline is Sean Nealis, who has partnered with Long as one of the team's center-backs this season. The Red Bulls have a losing record at home this season and Nealis described why earning three points there on Saturday is important.
I think in the first half, we played extremely well. We created a lot of opportunities there to score and kind of limited Atlanta’s opportunities. It was great to get that three points, and then now it’s on to the next one. It’s another big game for the Eastern Conference standings, and we have to pull three points here at home. I think the fans deserve a win at home and we have to give it to them.
Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.