It’s been raining pretty much non-stop since dawn. It’s also on the chilly side, with the temperature hovering around 45 degrees. Is this going to impact attendance, and how the game looks on television (ESPN2, 8:00) tonight? Yes and yes.
But we, and hopefully at least 15,000 others, will make the trip for what could be a landmark result for the franchise: win or tie tonight and New York will be hosting the Eastern Conference final next week—in their gorgeous brand-new stadium, with their marquee foreign signings, and with a very good chance to advance to the final.
All of that, as former MetroStars PR man and current ESPN scribe Jeff Bradley elaborates here, makes tonight a potentially historic occasion. (Bradley also reflects on the bad ol’ days of the franchise, circa 1996. It’s worth a read.)
• The local papers are not on the same page regarding tonight’s game, with the Wall Street Journal asserting Red Bulls Plan to Press Attack while the New York Daily News claims, With Juan Pablo Angel slumping and Thierry Henry hurting, Red Bulls rely on defense against San Jose.
C’mon guys, which is it?
We say the former, mainly because Hans Backe does, too, but also because Juan Pablo Angel is not really slumping (more on that in a second)—and since the Red Bulls were able to dominate San Jose on the road, they should be able to dictate the terms at RBA.
As for Angel, sure, he hasn’t scored in the run of play in a while (July 31 vs Houston) but he has been very useful to the Red Bulls lately by dropping back, collecting the ball in midfield, and bringing teammates into the action. He set up Dane Richards’ goal against New England in the season finale and should have had more assists after springing others with great passes.
Beyond that, he’s motivated to make a statement, in this, his final stretch with the team.
• Who starts, who sits?
Thierry Henry has been cleared and is available for selection tonight (sound the trumpets), but he may not start after such a long layoff. Salou Ibrahim is also back to 100% and could take the starting spot alongside Angel up top.
There’s also the possibility (intriguing) that Backe could return to 17-year-old Academy product Juan Agudelo, who got the start by default in the first leg and performed extremely well, especially considering it was his starting debut, in a playoff game, on the road.
Don’t be surprised if he gets out there again tonight at some point.
There are questions in the midfield as well: Tony Tchani returns from injury and may force someone, likely Mehdi Ballouchy, to the bench. That would put Lindpere out on the left, his preferred spot.
Whatever lineup Backe chooses to start, he has much more firepower at his disposal tonight than he did in the first leg.
Now, if someone can do something about the weather…..