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August 30, 2019

Preview: New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids

Peter Nolan August 30, 2019

Who: New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 07:00 pm ET
LineNew York Red Bulls -250 | Draw +390 | Colorado +600

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This Saturday night, the New York Red Bulls will welcome back New Jersey native, former New York/New Jersey MetroStar, and USMNT goalkeeping legend Tim Howard for his final professional match in his home state. This is the first time that Howard has faced his former, rebranded team.

It figures to be an emotional night for Howard and his Jersey-based fans. The home team won’t have much time for sentiment, although a video tribute would be a nice touch.

The Red Bulls are coming off of a disappointing trip to the Bronx that resulted in a 2-1 loss to neighboring New York City FC last Saturday. Sentiment aside, coach Chris Armas and company will be looking to beat up on Howard and his very beatable Colorado Rapids squad.

New York Red Bulls vs Colorado Rapids Match Preview

The Rapids will be playing their first game under new coach Robin Fraser in what is a homecoming of sorts for the former Red Bulls assistant, and ex-Chivas US head coach.

Fraser replaces former interim boss Conor Casey and inherits a team that is 13 points below the playoff line.

Already up against it, Colorado will be missing three starters for this match-up, with club goal-scoring leader Kei Kamara (11), midfielder Kellyn Acosta and defender Lalas Abubakar all suspended. Kamara sits for a straight red card offense and the others for yellow card accumulation in the wake of a madcap 2-0 Rivalry Week loss to Real Salt Lake. That match saw RSL score in the 96th and 99th minutes to earn the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Bouncing back from that disappointment will be no easy task for Colorado and an early test of Fraser’s motivational skills.

Fraser, most recently a Toronto FC assistant, will surely look to the red hot Diego Rubio if his Rapids are to deliver a surprise. Although he was kept off the scoresheet by RSL, Rubio notched a brace in the Rapids August 17th  2-2 draw at Houston. He has scored eight of his team-high nine goals in his previous 11 games.

Like the Raps, the Red Bulls will be looking for a bounce-back performance. However, unlike their guests, New York is very much in the playoff picture. Every point is crucial for NYRB as they attempt to secure a top-four finish and first-round home playoff game.

With young striker Brian White’s status still up in the air, Armas figures to entrust Bradey Wright-Philips with another start.

Midfielder Alex Muyl finally seems healthy again, as his rocketed goal versus NYCFC would attest. The hard working midfielder will likely get another nod from Armas unless the coach prefers to bing Muyl along slowly.

Red Bulls co-leader in goals, Daniel Royer, will get the start, and Armas figures to ride his most dependable player to the finish line.

A pair of players that will play key roles in RBNY’s playoff push are Aaron Long and Kaku. Both players have struggled for form in the wake of transfer rumors (Kaku in the offseason, Long more recently).

Just as important though for the home team are Long’s fellow defenders, center-back Tim Parker and fullback Michael Murillo. Not so long ago, Parker was getting USMNT calls. However, he has struggled this season while Long has become a national team mainstay.

Murillo has been a near-automatic pick not only for the Red Bulls but also for his native Panama. This season Murillo has been an accident waiting to happen though, collecting red cards, penalties etc, for New York to the point where recently signed Rece Buckmaster has become an option for Armas.

Prediction

Still, if the Red Bulls are to contend beyond one and done this postseason, this is a match that they simply must win. Expect them to step up and collect all three points, souring Howard’s home farewell.

 

Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC

Peter Nolan August 30, 2019

Who: Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC
When: Saturday, August 31st @ 10:00 pm ET
LineVancouver +320 | Draw +310 | NYCFC -139

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Hot on the heels of an impressive Hudson River Derby win over the New York Red Bulls, MLS Coach of the Week Dome Torrent and his NYCFC team fly cross-continent to face the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening.

While New York may complain of jetlag, a la Wayne Rooney, Vancouver should be the more tired of the two sides having made a cross country journey of their own following Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in Montreal. Brutal.

Rooney may have a point.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs NYCFC Match Preview

If New York City is to build on that Derby victory it will have to find a way to solve Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, the red hot Canadian international who set an MLS record with 16 saves on Saturday versus San Jose.

Crepeau erased USMNT legend Tony Meola’s mark, with many of his saves of the spectacular variety.

Despite their goalkeeper’s heroics, Vancouver still managed to lose that match 3-1. So Torrent and his charges will be hunting for the full three points.

Due to continued absence through injury of James Sands, Torrent will likely continue with the same four back system that worked so well versus their neighboring Red Bulls last time out. This line-up features Maxime Chanot and partner Alexander Callens centrally with Anton Tinnerholm and Ronald Matarrita on the flanks.

Minus Sands, that defense may be a bit vulnerable but it can still be an effective group. The fullbacks remain terrors on the wing, and midfielders Alex Ring and Keaton Parks are capable of providing cover defensively while also contributing to the City attack.

That attack is fed by MLS assist leader Maxi Morales; is he still underrated or has the MLS public finally copped on that the diminutive Argentine is one of the best players in the league?

Twin strikers Heber and Vincent Castellanos are a terror upfront and likely too much for the Vancouver defense to contain, even backed by Crepeau.

New York winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been out for several weeks now and appears close to a return. It may not be in time for Vancouver but ITS provides a goal scoring threat alongside New York’s other weapons and Torrent will welcome his return, whenever that comes.

The Whitecaps have taken a step backward this year, sitting in last place in their first season under Marc Dos Santos. The Caps finished eighth in 2018, just two points out of the playoffs.

Why? Well, Vancouver doesn’t score goals.

Its total of 29 goals is bested, (worsted?) only by Cincinnati’s 27. And to make matters worse, Vancouver doesn’t defend; only three teams have allowed more goals than the 50 that Whitecaps have leaked.

What threat the Caps do possess is largely down to Jordy Reyna, the Peruvian midfielder/forward who has five goals, good for second on the club. He’s just one behind Fredy Montero, who has scored four of his six goals from the penalty spot.

Dos Santos may look to Candian international Tosaint Ricketts for some inspiration up top. The versatile veteran has appeared in only three games this season,and received his first start of the campaign against Montreal Wednesday night, picking up an assist on Reyna’s goal.

22 year-old Korean international and Young Designated Player Inbeom Hwang is an exciting young player that will give New York coach Dome Torrent something to think about as well.

Prediction

By any and every metric, NYCFC is the better squad. Anything less than a point would be a disappointment. Expect NYCFC’s offense to be too much for Vancouver to contain and for the Pigeons to collect all three points.

 

 

Previewing La Liga Matchday 3: What to Make of First-Place Sevilla, and What to Watch This Weekend

Tyler Everett August 30, 2019

Three weeks into the ’19-20 La Liga season, we’ve focused most of our attention on Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. There’s a reason those teams get all the attention they do, but they often overshadow their league rivals. This year is no different.

While Barcelona lost its season opener to Athletic Bilbao and RM suffered a disappointing 1-1 draw against Valladolid last Saturday on Matchday 2, the two teams with six points are Sevilla and Atleti. And Sevilla, whose goal differential is currently +3, ahead of Los Rojiblancos’ +2, is the surprise league leader after about 180 minutes.

So before digging into the latest surrounding Spain’s big three, let’s address the burning question: is Sevilla Manager Julen Lopetegui’s team for real?

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A promising, if not entirely convincing, start

This squad has opened the season by beating Espanyol 2-0 and shutting out promoted side Granada 1-0. For now, the best answer to the “are they for real” question is “maybe.” And with Sevilla’s next two games coming against Celta Vigo (Friday) and Alavés (Sept. 15), Lopetegui and Co. should be no worse than tied for first place when they host Real Madrid on Sept. 22.

For this weekend, expect another victory, as it’s hard to imagine Sevilla (-190) losing to Celta Vigo (+510). Longer-term, oddsmakers are not overwhelmed by the team’s start, as they are +10,000 to win the league.

Los Blancos on the ropes

As for Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane’s team needs a win as bad as anyone in Europe after last weekend’s slip-up. Through two games, we’ve seen two different versions of RM. All looked well as they routed Celta Vigo 3-1 to open the season. But last week’s draw to a Valladolid side that is probably more likely to be relegated than qualify for Europe in ’20-21 caused many to ask the same questions of RM that haunted them throughout the summer.

Karim Benzema is following a quietly great ’18-19 with a strong start to ’19-20 – he has two goals and an assist after two games – but who else is going to step up and erase the memory of a disastrous ’18-19?

For this early in the season, Madridistas are coping with far more injured players than they should be. James Rodriguez’s recent injury will confine him to a crowded sideline as Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy and Isco, among others, work their way back from injuries. When Gareth Bale, of all people is one of your most reliable pieces health-wise, you’re in trouble. Despite the injury issues, RM (-114) is favored against Villarreal (+270) on Saturday, but not prohibitively so.

Barcelona, Atleti expected to cruise

Consensus league favorite Barcelona and HPS darling Atlético Madrid are getting less attention than usual in this piece because their Matchday 3 opponents appear completely over-matched. Barcelona (-278) takes on Osasuna (+850), the rare opposing side that won’t give the Catalans a scare regardless of whether Lionel Messi is in action or not. With that in mind, will Messi miss a third consecutive game to start the year? … Maybe there’s a reason to tune in to this one after all.

Atleti (-245) should also beat Eibar (+950) comfortably. The most interesting thing for Los Rojiblancos will be how Diego Simeone chooses his XI if Diego Costa is fit. To me, the logical move (in case Atleti wants my opinion) is to play João Félix as an attacking midfielder, with Costa and Álvaro Morata as the strikers. Again, the biggest reason to tune in might be to see who plays where for Atleti, and whether that results in a deviation from the team’s “1-0 win, with no decent opportunities for the opposition” routine.

Copa del Rey final rematch

And there is good news on the way for those who understandably have been underwhelmed with the match-ups through the first three matchdays. After a week off next weekend for international matches, we’ll get to see Barcelona host Valencia at Camp Nou in a rematch of last year’s Copa del Rey final on Saturday, September 14.

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