Since losing 1-0 to New York City FC on July 8th, the New York Red Bulls are 5-0-1, putting them first in points per game in Major League Soccer. That was Chris Armas’ first game in charge and things will come full circle after the Red Bulls’ trip to Vancouver before coming back to play NYCFC.
Preview: Red Bulls kick off brutal stretch of 5 games in 15 days in Vancouver
While the NYCFC fixture is important in the Supporters Shield race, so is this one against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Whitecaps won 3 of their last 4 games in MLS play. Carl Robinson’s team is 5-2-4 at home this year and will hope to rebound after their disappointing 7-4 aggregate loss to Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship Wednesday night.
The Whitecaps are vulnerable at the moment. Starlet Alphonso Davies played in the second leg of the Canadian Championship, but did so with a nagging groin injury. Against the Red Bulls, the Whitecaps will cap off a string of games in recent weeks which saw them zigzag across North America since late July. The Whtiecaps will have to deal with the disappointment of losing a Cup final and missing out on a 2019 CONCACAF Champions League birth.
The Red Bulls embark on a stretch of 5 games in 15 days starting with the match against the Whitecaps in the midst of a tight Supporters Shield race. At training Aaron Long spoke to that point.
“Knowing that we’re just ahead in points per game and we know if we lose points we could drop to second there,” said Long. “Every game is important right now and we want to win Supporters Shield, 3 points is definitely on our mind.”
The Vancouver Whitecaps hold an edge on the Red Bulls historically with a 4-2-2 record.
“They’ve always given us problems”, Armas said at training on Wednesday. “Typically known to be stingy defensively, comfortable in a deeper bloc defensively, and then that sets up for a counter-attack which they are #1 in the league for counter attacks and transition so it’s by design they can sit back and organize and be disciplined then catch you going the other way”.
Players to Watch
The Red Bulls acquired Tim Parker in a trade at the beginning of the 2018 MLS season from the Whitecaps and his performance will be key against his former team. When asked about Parker playing against his old team for the first time, Armas spoke on how Parker will be involved in the build up to the game.
“We will speak to Tim before we speak to the team,” said Armas. “We’ll talk to Tim today (Wednesday) even about Vancouver, some of the individuals on the team and we know those guys well so it’s not going to be too much on Tim but he knows the tendencies, he knows the movements, he knows where these guys like to operate so we’ll have Tim talk to the defenders”.
While former Red Bull, Felipe, will play in this game and certainly give the Whitecaps an edge, the Red Bulls should be more aware of Alphonso Davies. Bayern Munich shelled out a whopping $22 million for the services of the 17 year old wonder-kid until the year 2023. In a matter of just two years Alphonso Davies catapulted himself from the USL to securing a Bundesliga move all while lighting MLS on fire. Davies’ 5 goals and 10 assists earned him a commissioner’s pick to the MLS All-Star game earlier this month.
The left winger is fast and agile, but is starting to show a final end product to his game dishing out assists. When asked about Davies, Tim Parker lauded his growth, “he started training with the first team at 15 years old, it was kind of crazy to see just how naturally raw he was athletically and talent wise and I think you only get to see so many kinds of players that can dribble and every step of their stride is their touch on the ball so every time you think you can get a knick on the ball he kinda gets in and touches it away from you.” Michael Murillo will have his hands full with Davies on the left side of the field.
This game poses a great test for the Red Bulls to see if they can beat a team that’s quick on the counter and is content to see their opponents hold possession. The Red Bulls will kickoff against the Whitecaps at 7 pm Saturday August 18th on MSG and ESPN+.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography