New York Red Bulls: Dane Richards and Bouna Coundoul. Guess who's on international duty this week? Richards and Coundoul. If the New York Red Bulls want to hold on to first place in the Eastern Conference they are going to need the rest of the team to pick it up. The return of Rafa Marquez to midfield will go a long way towards masking the loss of Richards.
Real Salt Lake: RSL wrapped up an insane stretch of matches in style, defeating the Revolution 2-1 on the road. Despite the obvious fatigue and lack of sharpness, Salt Lake proved once again that they are mentally much stronger this season - after allowing a late equalizer to New England, they took the lead for good just two minutes later. This is a team that's finding ways to win games they probably deserve to draw, or even lose. That's the sign of a top-flight squad.
New York: The Red Bulls have a bad habit of soaking up the Red Bull Arena atmosphere and then trying to create a goal with their first pass. Tony Tchani and Mehdi Ballouchy tend to get flustered and turn the ball over in bad positions. But with Marquez holding in midfield, demanding the ball, the team tends to slow down and control possession.
Salt Lake: Despite the recent success, the team is still not playing all that well. The Revs owned the midfield against Real, something nobody who follows MLS is used to seeing. And most of the attacking players continue to struggle mightily; apart from Alvaro Saborio, the trio of other forwards have not scored in over seven matches in all competitions. When the hottest "striker" on the team is Nat Borchers, you've got a problem.
New York: 4-4-2. Greg Sutton will replace Coundoul. Assuming Marquez comes back from his midweek international in full fitness, he'll partner Tony Tchani in midfield, pushing Ballouchy to right midfield to replace Richards. If the Mexican captain doesn't make the first XI, Seth Stammler should see his first action in several weeks, either at right midfield or in the center.
Salt Lake: With a full week between games for the first time in what feels like forever, Jason Kreis should have all the weapons at his disposal. The stalwart center back tandem of Borchers and Olave will likely be flanked by Wingert and Russell; all will have to be on their game against a scary-good Red Bull attack. The midfield regulars of Morales, Beckerman, and Johnson will be joined by Williams or Grabavoy, depending on Kreis' mood. And the forwards will likely be Saborio and Espindola, the man who scored the game-winner against New York when these teams played in Utah.
New York: Thierry Henry cuts a frustrated figure on the field. He is working hard and creating chances for himself and his teammates but he cannot find the back of the net. The Frenchman is due to find his shooting boots.
Salt Lake: With Champion's League play behind them for this year, the team says they are now 100% focused on MLS. It didn't show last week when they were still dog-tired, but this week expect them to be mentally and physically well-rested. They'll need it if they want to show well against a top-notch team in a tough environment.
New York: 1-1. The Red Bulls might be riding fortune all the way to first in the East, but Jason Kreis is pushing Real Salt Lake to win the Supporter's Shield. Despite being at home, the Red Bulls will be the lucky side if they pull off a draw.
Salt Lake: Lately RSL have gotten away with some sub-par performances (by their standards, anyway) due to the mediocre competition. That won't work this time. If they can't get the offense in gear this weekend, they will lose for the first time in a long time. New York Red Bulls 1-0 Real Salt Lake.
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page and join Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page!