This is a guest preview by TSG writer Jason Price.
Football being what it is, and this being MLS, anything is possible in tonight’s Eastern Conference Semi-Final second leg, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put my money on the Earthquakes.
New York carries a 1-0 advantage into Red Bull Arena, so the team formerly known as the Clash will need a victory to progress onto the Conference Finals which, for the Quakes, would either mean a happy trip to the nippy and desolate Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, or a rewarding jaunt to the chilly and oft unvisited Crew Stadium.
Regardless, here are six scenarios which could somehow see the Quakes through:
1) Bouna time:
Statistically, Bouna Coundoul is among the top goalkeepers in MLS and by and large the Senegalese international has settled in well at RBA as a true number one. At moments spectacular (dare we say, even world class), he is also capable of making some of the most magnificent errors you’ll see among those that have joined the keeper’s cloth – think Barthez without the flare, or Robert Green without the… Well, just think Robert Green.
2) Geovanni and Miller:
Roy Miller is a talented and capable MLS left back, with a proclivity for shutting off from time to time. Geovanni is a talented and capable MLS attacker, with a proclivity for shutting off from time to time. Keep an eye on this match-up. On Saturday night, Miller made two game-threatening errors involving the Hull City man, neither of which the Brazilian DP could take advantage of. Provided Miller is off his game again, and if Geovanni is on his, anything is possible.
3) Busch and belief:
On the road underdogs in do-or-die situations gain confidence from keeping clean sheets, and if the Queens native can hold the Bulls at bay with the kind of heroics he displayed back at the Buck over the weekend, then they just might be able to poach a late goal (perhaps one of them Wondo wonder strikes) at which point, it would be anyone’s game.
4) Bobby Convey, danger man:
If Saturday night was any indication, Bobby Convey will have little luck getting in behind Chris Albright this evening – a testament to the right back’s phoenix-like resurrection. Stifled, watch for Convey to drift inside and fill the creative vacuum in the Quakes central midfield in an attempt to make a few connecting passes into the Quakes attacking third. But don’t hold your breath, this is not want Convey does best, and the Bulls have gotten very good of late at closing down that space in front of their back-four.
5) A limp Lindpere:
It’s hard to tell just how much the Red Bulls rely on the steely Estonian in midfield, but judging from last week’s fixture, it can’t be underestimated. Apart from the timely goals, excellent service, and endless pressing, the guy’s work rate is downright inspiring – he just doesn’t stop. There are also the little things: as Tim Ream pointed out after Saturday’s match, Lindpere drops in regularly and wins a majority of the second balls that might otherwise fall to attacking opponents in dangerous areas. The guy is unquestionably Metros’ player of the year not to mention the beating heart of the nascent squad, but he’s also carrying a nagging groin injury, and there’s a chance he might have to pull up at some point tonight. With Rafa Marquez not at 100%, Tony Tchani coming off injury (and prone to rookie mistakes), and Carl Robinson not getting many minutes of late, a gaping hole could emerge in the Bulls midfield.
6) 89% chance of precipitation:
Anything can happen in the rain.
But these are exceptions to the rule. The Red Bulls come into the match with the lead, and brimming with confidence. They are very good at home, and are quite simply the more talented and better organized squad. In all likelihood, they come of out of this with a comfortable win, and sit back to see who’s coming Passaic-side next.
A new team, a new organization, but some might ask if the ghosts of Metro past entirely gone… Well, in the words of one devout Metro supporter I spoke with who made the costly trans-continental flight to witness the first-leg of this series: “Look, I followed this club since the day… since ’96. And well… I’m scared dude.”