Another week, another set of questions with the opposing blogger of this week's opponent. This week, it's Once A Metro, the SB Nation New York Red Bulls blog. If I recall my SB Nation history correctly, they were actually one of the first few Major League Soccer blogs on the network. All hail the pioneers. Still, no cups, though.
We talk a little Thierry Henry, how a holding midfielder should properly play, and rage on in the Teal Bunbury vs. Juan Agudelo battle. Thanks this week to Ben Schneider of OaM for taking the time out to give some great insight on the Red Bulls.
1. New York boast an attacking squad of Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, Dwayne De Rosario, Joel Lindpere, Luke Rodgers and even Jan Gunnar Solli, while Sporting KC aren't so shabby themselves with Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara, Ryan Smith, CJ Sapong, Milos Stojcev and Davy Arnaud. The group of forwards look to be pretty close to a wash between the two teams with New York's midfielders having a decided advantage over Sporting's. How has the chemistry with so many attacking options at forward and midfield grown and was the 4-0 thrashing of DC United last Thursday a sign that it's all starting to come together?
The 4-0 win over DC definitely turned some heads, but the Red Bulls showed that everything was coming together against San Jose, which ended 3-0 but could have quite easily been 5-0 or 6-0. The curious part about this improvement is that it has occurred almost in spite of De Rosario, who has been largely anonymous after tearing it up in the second half against Houston. Solli has proven himself to be one of the best attacking fullbacks in MLS (which makes sense, as he is naturally an attacking midfielder), while Rodgers has shown an extremely good eye for a final ball, and Thierry Henry has found his scoring boots (or head).
One of the key points to note about New York's games against San Jose and DC, though, is that both of those teams came out to play against the Red Bulls -- unlike Philly, who bunkered down and got an extremely lucky goal. So far, if a team tries to attack New York, that side will leave space for the Red Bulls' attack to generate some scoring chances.
Something tells me that Sporting will come out to play and not back down. So you're saying this could get ugly, huh?
2. With so much depth on the squad, New York had the luxury of sliding holding midfielder of 2010 Rafa Marquez back to centerback permanently prior to the start of the 2011 season. How has Marquez looked over the season as a hole, and who has stepped into that holding midfield role to replace him?
New York's defense has been excellent this season: the Red Bulls have conceded just two goals in six games, both off of horrendous individual errors. Márquez and Tim Ream are comfortably the best passing centerback pair in MLS, and possibly the best all-round central defensive partnership. Both have excellent positional ability, a good idea of where their opponent's next pass is going, and know when to go to ground.
Teemu Tainio has taken over Márquez's defensive midfield spot and proven himself to be more than competent as a replacement. After a slightly shaky first half against Seattle in the Red Bulls' opening game of the season, Tainio made the pass for Juan Agudelo's winning goal and has been generally excellent since. While not physically imposing, he is good at winning the ball and helping to keep it, which is crucial in New York's possession-style game. Tainio also has a good eye for a long pass and has used that ability to set up a few scoring chances this season.
3. This looks to be a debate for a long time to come for US National Team fans: Teal Bunbury or Juan Agudelo - who has the better club and international career?
It's very difficult to predict anything about Juan Agudelo just yet -- he's only appeared in twelve matches at club level and four for the senior USA squad. Obviously, what he has shown us so far is very promising, and I think it's fair to say that his ceiling is higher than Bunbury's. At the same time, plenty of other players have excelled at 17 or 18 and dropped off the map by their mid-twenties. Agudelo seems to have all the tools (speed, intelligence, technical ability, strength) to excel in Europe, but he needs to have at least one season of 25-30 appearances under his belt before anyone can give him a fair assessment.