One of the few Eastern Conference teams to enjoy success in interconference play, the New York Red Bulls look to extend that fine run of form Saturday night when they host Real Salt Lake.
The Red Bulls (6-3-5) are in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference entering weekend play, five points behind front-running D.C. United and four clear of eighth-place Toronto. They have claimed 11 of their points in six matches versus Western Conference teams, going 3-2-1, and were the only team of seven in the East to claim a point in last week’s set of matches with their 2-2 mid-week draw versus Vancouver.
Chris Armas’ team built on that point by completing the double over expansion side FC Cincinnati last Saturday, winning 2-0 on the road. Kaku snapped a scoreless tie on 78 minutes before Omir Fernandez added a stoppage-time goal for New York, which has gone 5-1-1 in its last seven matches to offset a woeful start in which it claimed five points from its first seven.
Both goal-scorers came off the bench to make a maximum contribution for Armas, whose side claimed seven of a possible nine points from a grueling run of three matches in six days.
“That locker room is really energized right now,” Armas told the club’s official website. “I think part of it is that we win on the road. Part of it is that we continue the momentum. Part of it is that there are a lot of different players contributing. Part of it the guys feel like they are growing in all these moments.”
Brian White leads the Red Bulls with just three goals, but 15 different players have struck at least once in to account for their 21 in league play.
Real Salt Lake (6-1-7) is trying to salvage a split of its two-game road swing prior to the Gold Cup break. RSL were denied a fourth straight victory Wednesday night with a 2-1 defeat at Montreal, getting a late goal from Sam Johnson. Jefferson Savarino nearly stole a point in stoppage time, but his free kick whistled wide.
“In transition in the first half we did have our opportunities and we had our key moments and that’s going to be huge in New York,” coach Mike Petke said after the defeat. “They are a team that gets a lot of numbers around the ball to counter-press immediately and if we don’t find those avenues to play out of and bypass them, then it’s going to be a long day Saturday. We’ve already started talking to the team about the game on Saturday. It’s going to be a tough game, a tough place to go play in.”
Petke, who made five changes to the first XI that recorded a 2-1 win over Atlanta last weekend, will be forced into one change as midfielder Damir Kreilach must serve a one-match ban for yellow card accumulation after getting booked Wednesday night. Albert Rusnak also is questionable for this match after being forced off just before the hour with an ankle injury.
RSL took four of the six points between the teams last year and emerged with a road point last year in a scoreless draw. New York is just 2-3-7 in the last 12 meetings between the teams but 5-4-1 in the last 10 at home.
(Jefferson Savarino photo courtesy KSL Sports official Twitter account)