No Nesta. No Henry. No Cahill. Doesn't matter. There is still a game to be played and points to be earned.
With a win, Montreal would keep its spot on top of the Eastern conference while proving that they can win a big game without the defensive legend in the lineup. It would also create a double digit point difference in the standings.
On the other hand, a New York win would be a huge confidence booster for an injury depleted team trying to turn around a poor start to this season.
When you consider everything that is on the line, superstars or not, this should be a great battle.
Mount Royal Soccer hooked up with their friends at Once A Metro to bring you an inside look at the Big Apple Energy Drinks and what you should be expecting from them this weekend. Here we go:
The 2013 New York Red Bulls have been completely revamped. You have a new manager in Mike Petke. Gone are the likes of Rafa Marquez, Joel Lindpere, Kenny Cooper, Sebastian Le Toux and more. Some of the new faces include Juninho, Fabian Espindola & Jamison Olave among others. Do you miss any other players who left? Who has provided the biggest impact so far this season and why?
Some guys are missed more for sentimental reasons, particularly Lindpere, but also some of the lesser known bench and role players who got lost in the shuffle of a completely revamped coaching staff and front office.
In terms of effectiveness and productivity, only one player comes to mind and that's Kenny Cooper. I understand that, due to his contract, it wasn't in the cards for him to stick around New York but eighteen goals are hard to replace. Cooper was exactly the type of player who could have found some way to find the back of the net in a game (like last weekend's game against DC United which ended in a 0-0 tie).
When Juninho has been on the field, he's been a tremendous influence on the game. The only problem is that he strained his 38-year-old calf muscle recently. He missed New York's second game and came off the bench in the second half in their third.
Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola, acquired from Real Salt Lake for allocation money, have been great so far. They have brought elements to the team that were sorely missing for most, if not all, of former coach Hans Backe's three year tenure managing the club.
The Red Bulls are in 9th in the East with 5 goals against already. What has gone wrong so far? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
The numbers don't tell the whole story. The Red Bulls completely fall apart in the second half of the season opener against Portland. They held San Jose scoreless for eighty minutes before losing the game and then they shut out rival DC United.
The two goals that have been conceded so far were thanks in large part to "mental lapses" by left back Roy Miller. Unfortunately for Montreal, he is away on international duty with Costa Rica. I think we saw the light of the end of the tunnel last Saturday against DC. Our backline played as a cohesive unit. The midfield was dropping back to support the defense and they were also moving the ball around, getting forward and taking away some of the pressure that can come with a 0-0 tie late in a game against your rival.
If their key players stay healthy, I see the Red Bulls defense being one of the best in the league after a few more weeks of playing together.
How have DPs Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry played so far this season? Can you clarify why they will not be playing on Saturday and if their absence will be long term?
Who? Just kidding! Well, sort of. Cahill and Henry had forgettable games against Portland and San Jose. Both showed well for the home opener last weekend but couldn't finish any of a number of chances. Cahill won't be playing as he will be off with the Australian national team for World Cup qualifying.
Henry has a "mild calf sprain". It is a chronic problem that always emerges heading into road games that are played on turf (except Portland where the artificial grass is apparently quite special). We'll see him the next week back at Red Bull Arena. I hope no one in Montreal bought tickets expecting to see the highest profile player in Major League Soccer (now with David Beckham back in Europe).
With Henry and Tim Cahill confirmed missing for Saturday, how will the Red Bulls approach this game? Who will step in for them? Who now steps up as the most dangerous man for the Red Bulls in this game? Can you also give us a probable formation and starting XI?
Manager Mike Petke likes to unleash a formation that resembles a fluid 4-3-3. However, with Cahill and Henry missing and Juninho still coming back from a minor knock, it is very difficult to predict formation and lineup.
New signing Peguy Luyindula has just received his Visa. He is a prime candidate to start in place of the injured Henry as the Red Bulls depth up top leaves a lot to be desired. Petke also held Olave out of training this week and has been a bit coy on whether or not there were any implications for his availability on Saturday. Assuming Olave plays, I'll start with what we know defensively and make my best guesses moving up the field.
Brandon Barklage - Jamison Olave - Markus Holgersson - Heath Pearce
Johnny Steele - Juninho - Eric Alexander
Fabian Espindola - Peguy Luyindula
Final score prediction? I'm calling this 1-0 for Montreal, which nearly guarantees a 4-4 tie.