How do you stop a red-hot team playing at home in front of the best crowd in the league? That is the question facing the Red Bulls as they prepare to play Toronto FC at BMO Field tonight (7pm, ESPN2).
The Red Bulls wil be bolstered by the returns of star forward Juan Pablo Angel and defender/midfielder Hunter Freeman, both of whom are expected to start in tonight’s match. Angel’s return means the Red Bulls will field the potent Juan Pablo Angel-Jozy Altidore forward tandem for the first time this season.
The Red Bulls will need all hands on deck against a Toronto FC squad riding a three-match winning streak. TFC has combined a revamped attack with a suddenly disciplined defense to win three straight after starting the season 0-2. Former Red Bulls star Amado Guevara has been key to the turnaround and will be the focal point tonight against his former club.
Here is a closer look at the match-up, including the lineups I see both teams using tonight:
Here is the Red Bulls lineup I see Juan Carlos Osorio using:
Van Den Bergh—————————–Leitch
Freeman looks to be close to fully recovered from an ankle injury and should slide into the right midfield role, not just because of his defensive ability, but because of his quality crossing ability.
Look for Juan Carlos Osorio to use Borman and Van Den Bergh on the left in order to keep the tandem of Rohan Ricketts and Marvell Wynne busy with defensive responsibilities. Wynne and Ricketts have been troubling opponents with their speed but they can also be caught out of position, which could free up Van Den Bergh to overlap and attack.
The game-plan is simple for the Red Bulls. Feed the wings, who will be called on to provide a steady diet of service into the penalty area. Ricketts and Robert aren’t known for their defensive capabilities, something the Red Bulls will be looking to capitalize on. This is why I think you will see Dane Richards come in as a second half sub. Another reason for this strategy is so that the Red Bulls can work around the TFC defensive midfield tandem of Edu and Robinson, which normally does a good job of clogging the middle.
The Red Bulls aren’t likely to man-mark Guevara, particularly not if he’s going to be playing in a withdrawn forward role that gives him freedom to float around, but you can bet Seth Stammler will keep one eye on Amado Guevara all match long.
Here is Toronto’s likely lineup:
It wouldn’t surprise me to see TFC coach John Carver to start Julius James ahead of Velez in central defense to give Toronto a pair of strong and athletic center backs to contend with Altidore and Angel. Pat Phelan also has the size to deal with Altidore, but I’m not sure if he has the quickness. I think it’s safe to say Marshall will mark Angel.
I also think Toronto would be better off starting Jeff Cunningham instead of Dichio up top because Cunningham’s speed will cause more problems for the Red Bulls than Dichio’s aerial prowess. Dichio seems to be Carver’s preferred choice up top though so I see him getting the call.
How do I see the match playing out? I think Toronto starts of well but then the Red Bulls settle down and catch up. Expect a wide-open match that will finish a 2-2 tie.
What do you think of tonight’s match? Share your thoughts below.