- United is still without the injured Ben Olsen, and Christian Gomez is questionable with his battered toe (subungal hematoma for the medically inclined amongst you).
- The Bulls' injury list includes starting fullback Carlos Johnson and sometime-winger/forward Matthew Mbuta. The big man up top, Mac Kandji, is questionable as well.
- Nobody is missing for either side through suspension, though it looks like Burch and Namoff picked up fines from those mangy imps in the Disciplinary Committee, most likely for daring to question that Revs PK last time out.
- Let the international conflicts commence! United defender Avery John is away with T&T, while Rojas, Pacheco, and Boyens of the Red Bulls are away with their respective national teams.
Things to Watch For
- First punch. The last time we entertained the Crimson Cows in the midweek at RFK, we pounced early. Given the current run that they're on and our own recent fragile form, that would give us an early boost and keep them from gaining anything resembling confidence.
- Sustained pressure. We don't play again until the 13th. They've got a game on Sunday. Run them ragged from the off and don't hold back. They've got some wear on a few sets of relatively old legs as well, so it wouldn't hurt to make them run a bit through sustained possession much like we were hitting the Revs with in the first half last weekend.
- Don't let up. Too often this team has either failed to protect leads well or has emerged from halftime a shadow of its first-half self. Whether that's down to Tommy's tactical decisions or just a team-wide lack of a killer instinct is subject to debate. What shouldn't be at question is that we need to change.
- Width both ways. One of the good things about our attacking play against New England was the ability to shift the point of attack quickly through crossfield balls. Though we weren't able to fully exploit that advantage, it is a tactic that may prove more effective against a slower Bulls defense, particularly with Johnson out through injury and Pacheco away on international duty. Likewise, we need energy and recovery in the flank positions to protect against speedy incursions by the Bulls' wide men.
Line 'Em Up
Nothing terribly shocking there, but a few words of explanation nonetheless...
- Reruns at the back. No changes in defense or holding midfield given that this crew looked pretty darn good against the Revs until the tide turned in possession and Wicks had one lapse in judgement. The only change I considered was for Jacobson, and that would be to try a more attacking option, either Fred or Pontius. That said, I want to see more of the Fred-Emilio connection, so he needs to stay higher, and I think Pontius has been looking a little spent of late.
- Magic Triangle. As I mentioned before, the Fred-Emilio connection last week was a strong one, at least in the first half, with both players putting forth the sort of effort that justifies their salary and their continued starting. The addition of Moreno creates another known threat for the Bulls' defense to focus on (potentially pulling them out of shape with runs), adds a holding element to the equation, and lets Fred make more runs off the ball. Also, the sheer ground that Fred covers and the defensive effort he puts in frees Moreno to stay higher up the pitch.
- The No Gomez Effect. Without both Gomez and Moreno in from the start, that allows for the inclusion of Quaranta, who can't seem to play to his potential when the other two are on the field. I could equally see Pontius here, or Pontius on the left with Wallace on the bench, but I think Pontius has been slowing of late, while Wallace shows little sign of doing so. Additionally, Pontius' versatility makes him an excellent option to have off the bench, potentially able to slot in at any position in midfield and attack. For the record, I prefer him as a starter, but I think his recent play has been slipping, and a spell on the bench allows for both rest and closer study of the game. As for Quaranta, he's more of a dribbling/crossing threat than Pontius, and potentially expands the Magic Triangle to a rhombus, particularly if we can get those long crossfield balls from Burch on target.
So that's how I would put them out. How about you? Eager to see the likes of N'Silu and Boyzzz terrorizing the Bulls again? Would you start Quaranta over Pontius? Moreno over Pontius? Care to make yet another keeper change? Let's hear your lineups and keys to the match.