After winning the Supporters' Shield, the Red Bulls look to continue their dominance at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium.After the New York Red Bulls clinched the Supporters’ Shield, manager Mike Petke grabbed a microphone to address the fans. One task was accomplished, he told them, but he’d be back to work tomorrow as the Red Bulls seek to win the club’s first MLS Cup.
That quest begins Saturday when the Red Bulls travel to face the Houston Dynamo in the first of a two-legged Eastern Conference semifinal at 3:30 pm Eastern on NBC.
The Dynamo eased through a play-in match against Montreal on Thursday, a 3-0 result that ended with the Impact reduced to eight men because of unsporting behavior. They’ll face a far tougher task against New York with the memory of the Red Bulls’ last visit to BBVA Compass Stadium fresh in many minds. On October 20, Tim Cahill scored the quickest goal in MLS history just eight seconds after the opening whistle. The rout was on, and the Red Bulls added two more, beating Houston by three goals at home for the second time in as many months.
The Red Bulls dominance in BBVA Compass Stadium is something of an anomaly, considering the stadium is one of the toughest places to get a win in MLS. But in their three triumphs against the Dynamo this year, New York has been able to exploit an uncharacteristically weak Dynamo back line. Dom Kinnear will be worried enough about the Red Bulls’ internationally renowned forward line of Cahill and Thierry Henry, but Peguy Luyindula’s Man of the Match performance in midfield during the Red Bulls’ final match of the season will give even more reason for worry. Also, should Petke choose to utilize him, left back Roy Miller returned to training this week after missing two months with an Achilles injury.
There’s no such good news for the Dynamo with Jamaica international Jermaine Taylor out because of a fractured metatarsal. Kinnear is known as one of the best playoff managers in MLS history, guiding the Dynamo to the previous two MLS Cup Finals. Getting it to a third would be a huge coup with his team weaker than before and the teams around him stronger. The manager himself won't be on the touch line in the first leg after the MLS Disciplinary Comittee suspended him for leaving the technical area during the win against Montreal.
Houston's young striker Will Bruin will need to imitate the form he was in during Thursday’s playoff when he scored a brace and Kinnear will rely on defensive midfielder Ricardo Clark to break down Red Bulls attacks before they make it to the back four. Otherwise, the Red Bulls’ dominance in Houston will continue, and the Dynamo will have little chance in the second leg.