The Seattle Sounders play at the New York Red Bulls Saturday in their last matchup with an Eastern Conference opponent (until MLS Cup, amirite?) this season.
The Red Bulls are a quality opponent in fine form, getting results in four out of their last five matches (three wins). With Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York is an offensive powerhouse. Especially at Red Bull Arena, as they have scored 29 goals at home, good enough for second in the league behind the Los Angeles Galaxy. The aforementioned Henry and Wright-Phillips are dominating the statistics this season, Henry with 12 assists and Wright-Phillips with 21 goals, pacing MLS. In fact, Wright-Phillips has a very realistic shot of tying the single season mark of 27 goals (shared by Chris Wondolowski and Roy Lassiter). He just needs a goal a game to do so, just a hair over his .91 goals per 90 minutes played. Because of the quality of these two, New York is capable of fireworks.
If you’re reading this site, you know what the Sounders can do: Dempsey, Martins, Pappa, Neagle, and Barrett. Dempsey and Martins are the two most dangerous men in MLS (sorry Titi and BWP). Seattle’s attack can come from anywhere (Hail Hydra!), whether it’s Neagle with a golazo, Barrett with a pesky finish or Pappa with a lethal free kick. The Sounders lead the league in both goals and swagger. Saturday should be a barnburner.
But… I doubt it will be. Seattle just played their hearts out in two emotional slugfests over the span of five days (with a cross country flight thrown in), and I can’t imagine them getting all hot and bothered for an away match in New Jersey. Yes, these men are professionals and it’s their job to play a kid’s game for money. But they’re human. They have emotional limits and a finite well of give-a-damn. I wouldn’t be surprised if coach Sigi Schmid fields an Open Cup-esque lineup. In fact, I want him to.
Rest everyone at New York. The last week has been a hustle and most players may still reek of stale beer and champagne from Tuesday night’s locker room festivities. Let the boys have a breather. Start Hahnemann, Remick, Traore, Anibaba, Yedlin (he’s young), Bowen, Azira, Pineda (he’s rested), Kovar, Cooper and Okoli. Why not? Losing to New York wouldn’t be that bad. Sure we’d drop points, but not to a Western Conference rival, and we can’t relinquish first place (no matter what Keane, Donovan and Co. do). Plus we’d be fresher for next Wednesday’s game against the very dangerous FC Dallas. That is a game (in the West, against the #4 team, away) we need to win.
Bold Prediction: Behind a MASH unit, Seattle plays admirably, but fails 3-1. If Sigi pushes his starters in Harrison, NJ, I’ll call a 2-2 draw. But I don’t want to see that with the Hoops looming in Frisco. C’mon Sigi, mail it in (but isn’t this opposite of what I was talking about yesterday?).