After a brief interlude for non-league play Seattle Sounders FC head off to Jersey/NYC to take on former Eastern Conference power, and last year's Supporters' Shield winner. New York Red Bulls are struggling right now, but are still a great team. Thierry Henry has thoughts about the Open Cup.
Let's ask Matt from Once a Metro Three Questions to get read for the match ahead of us.
SaH: Is the BWP phenomena just him playing with Henry, or is there more to it than that?
OaM: That's the easy narrative, isn't it? Bradley Wright-Phillips, a Football League journeyman, comes to MLS and starts banging them in, courtesy Thierry Henry.
But I don't think that's the case. Yeah, playing next to Henry helps, but it's not like I could go out there and score 10 goals playing next to him. To being with, Henry has been dropping further into the midfield to act as a playmaker, and now plays as a left winger in a 4-3-3, so Wright-Phillips isn't exactly thriving off inattentive center backs. Even when the Red Bulls played a 4-4-2, it was more a 4-4-1-1, with Henry acting as a number 10.
It also helps that Wright-Phillips gets good service from a number of players, not just Henry. Lloyd Sam, Roy Miller, Ambroise Oyongo and Chris Duvall all can hit a good cross, and you've got to pay attention when Tim Cahill is in the mixer, too. He gets in the right positions, too, and he's got the technical ability to get a shot off that other players in MLS just don't have. Oh, and he takes penalties, too.
The crazy part is, Wright-Phillips could have more goals. There were a number of games he just didn't finish his chances, and ended the game with one goal, instead of two, maybe three.
SaH: What will Roy Miller do to prevent DeAndre Yedlin from turning the corner?
OaM: Overlapping with Henry, Oyongo, Eric Alexander or whoever else is out there on the left with him.
The Red Bulls defense is awful, which makes possession their best strategy for keeping the ball out of their net. I'd put money on Seattle scoring a goal Saturday. It's preventing the Red Bulls, who aren't short on offensive weapons, from scoring. It's what they've done pretty much all year: Just try and outscore the other team, because the defense is a wreck.
SaH: Red Bull are particularly good at home this year, what powers that?
OaM: Most teams are better at home than on the road. It could be any number of things, from having the comforts of home before a game to knowing the confines of the field better than their opponents.
But if you want something of a conspiracy theory: The Red Bulls haven't had the best time traveling, it seems. They've had flights delayed, bus trips to Open Cup games have gone awry. Maybe they've got an issue with whoever's scheduling their away trips? Who knows?
Projected Lineup: Robles; Miller, Olave, Sekagya, Duvall; McCarty, Cahill, Luyindula; Henry, Wright-Phillips, Sam
OaM: The Sounders won the Open Cup Tuesday and are in the Supporters' Shield driver's seat. How likely do you think the Sounders are to pull off the double? The treble?
SaH: It's hard not to be overconfident this week. That Open Cup win sets Sounders FC up perfectly. They're the only team that can do it. But let's be honest, the reality is that winning the Shield is hard. Seattle led last year and flubbed it. Winning MLS Cup after winning the Shield is harder.
I want to live in the world of hope and fancy. A team with Clint, Oba, Ozzie, B-Rad, Pappa, Marshall, Pineda and Yedlin has enough top end talent to compete in the second season. A team with Barrett, Cooper, Neagle, Scott, Gonzalez, Frei, Rose, Anibaba and Traore has enough depth to finish off the stretch run. It's a really good squad with an underrated defense and one of the best attacks that MLS has seen.
OaM: Tuesday's game went 120 minutes. Do you think fatigue will be an issue Saturday?
SaH: It was a long game, but Seattle is just now entering a stretch of intense double-match weeks. Prior to the RSL match there was a nine-day break. Let's look at members of the Ideal XI that went more than 90 in the Open Cup win;
Frei, Yedlin, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez - that's the whole backline and the keeper. That usually wouldn't be an issue, but Scott got a pretty serious knock. Evans went 94 and had to be replaced due to injury. This doesn't bode well. Alonso, Rose and Clint Dempsey also went 120.
That makes me kind of scared a bit.
There are 15 players with 10 or more MLS starts on the squad. Six of them didn't go 90 or more. The following players on that list didn't play at all - Cooper, Anibaba, Traore. Martins, Pineda and Pappa only played a bit. Sigi has options with a deep squad. The injuries will be a bigger issue than fatigue.
OaM: A lot of people around here still like Kenny Cooper. How's he been doing for you guys?
SaH: Cooper lead the Open Cup in goals scored with 6. He also has 3 MLS goals. That's a pretty good year for most players. For him, it's a down season. Sigi's tried him on the wing, but he's clearly a forward trying to play outside. With Dempsey, Martins and now Barrett ahead of Kenny there's a lack of playing time. Kenny isn't here to start though. He's here to win trophies. He's got one already. He will soldier on in whatever role is needed, provide a bit of a slow spark and look nearly as good as he always has.
Line-up: Frei; Yedlin, Marshall, Anibaba, Remick; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Cooper, Martins