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The mood is a confident one in Red Bulls camp as they head toward their winner-take-all playoff match against Houston on Sunday.
Despite blowing a lead late in their Western Conference playoff opener, a 1-1 tie last Saturday, the Red Bulls look like a relaxed and confident bunch. They should field the same lineup in game two, though at least one injury could jeopardize that continuity.
Defender Diego Jimenez is nursing a knee injury and is probably the biggest question mark heading into Sunday. If he were unable to go, Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio would find himself in a difficult position. He would then either have to slide left back Kevin Goldthwaite into central defense and move Dave Van Den Bergh to right back, or he would have to consider starting Gabriel Cichero.
Yes, I know, that second option sounds about as appealing as punch in the face.
Fear not Red Bulls fans, Osorio has all but said that Cichero has run out of chances. Juan Pietravallo and Jorge Rojas still seem to be bench options but neither is likely to start.
Mike Magee has recovered from the illness that kept him out of game one against Houston, but don’t expect him back in the starting lineup. Osorio stated pretty emphatically on Saturday that Magee wouldn’t have started even if he had been healthy. When asked if the lineup for Sunday will look like the lineup from game one, Osorio stated that there probably wouldn’t be many changes.
Dane Richards is coming up a subpar performance in game one and is actually in jeopardy of being benched in favor of Matthew Mbuta. Mbuta doesn’t quite have Richards’ speed, but he’s a better crosser, has a better shot, works harder defensively and is better in the air. It didn’t help Richards any that he fell asleep on his defensive assignment long enough to let Wade Barrett delivery the key cross on Houston’s late-game equalizer. Look for Richards to hold on to the starting job, but he will get pulled early if he looks as bad as he did last week.
Sinisa Ubiparipovic is ready to go after having to leave Saturday’s match with back pain. He and Luke Sassano formed a solid central midfield partnership against the Dynamo and should start again.
Dave Van den Bergh revealed that he is in the final guaranteed year of his contract and wants to return in 2009 if the Red Bulls will have him. Osorio stated that he would like to have Van Den Bergh back.Van Den Bergh has enjoyed a strong season and has been the club’s most effective midfielder all season long.
What do you think about the team’s chances heading into Sunday’s match? What would you do lineup-wise if Diego Jimenez can’t play?
Share your thoughts below.