Red Bulls-United Preview
The New York Red Bulls and D.C. United are hoping the return of key strikers will bolster their flagging offenses when the Eastern Conference rivals meet at RFK Stadium on Saturday.
New York (1-2-3) has scored four goals in its last five matches after opening the season with a 3-all draw at Portland on March 3. Jamison Olave staked the Red Bulls to an early lead at Chicago on Sunday with a goal in the 17th minute, but they conceded an equalizer late in the first half that swung the match before the Fire scored twice late in a 3-1 victory.
"We're a little bit bitter about the last loss we had in Chicago," defender Brandon Barklage told the team's official website. "(Saturday) is a good opportunity to rebound against a top rival in the Eastern Conference. We're excited about the opportunity to turn things around."
The expected return of forward Fabian Espindola is another good reason to be excited. The Argentine, who scored twice in the draw with the Timbers, missed the last two matches with a hamstring injury but has been practicing with the team this week.
"He'll be available healthy wise to be selected for the 18," coach Mike Petke said. "Whether he starts or not depends on the next couple of days."
Fellow striker Thierry Henry likely will be held in a reserve role as he continues to heal from a sprained knee. The Frenchman entered Sunday's match in the 60th minute and had a potential go-ahead goal hit the left post.
Henry, who had five shots on goal and 10 overall in a scoreless draw between these teams March 16, has three goals and two assists in four career matches at RFK.
United (1-1-3) are trying to join Los Angeles as the only MLS franchises with 300 victories, but goals have been few and far in between. They have scored twice in their first five matches and are trying to regroup after a 1-0 road defeat to Sporting Kansas City last Friday in which they allowed the goal in the 89th minute.
"We moved the ball very well. I thought we got into some good spots," midfielder Chris Pontius said. "Offensively, I'd still like to see us get more. Unfortunately it comes down to one play that they made and we didn't."
Pontius scored five of his career-high 12 goals last year against New York, highlighted by a hat trick in a 4-1 home victory April 22.
Coach Ben Olsen will likely have forward Dwayne DeRosario available for his starting lineup. The 35-year-old, who missed last week's match with an adductor strain, has three goals and three assists in his last six matches versus the Red Bulls.
DeRosario's return plus the change in venue - United have scored both their goals at home - has the team optimistic.
"I think we're a bit of a different team when we play at home," defender Dejan Jakovic told the team's website. "We obviously play with a lot more confidence and we definitely keep the ball more. There's just something about playing at home that makes you want it more."
United's Bill Hamid made six saves in the previous meeting, and Espindola hit the crossbar on two occasions as the Red Bulls amassed a 24-4 edge in shots.