The Atlantic Cup is up for grabs this week as the New YorkRed Bulls and D.C. United meet for the third time this season. Here are a few keys to look for inWednesday night’s showdown at RFK.
With all their talent, New York can score in a variety ofways – but of late, the Red Bulls have been most dangerous through theair. Kenny Cooper’s physicalpresence makes him the visitors’ most obvious target, but solely focusing onthe 6-foot-3 forward would be a massive mistake. Defenders Heath Pearce and Markus Holgersson can be equallydangerous on set pieces, as are midfielders Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty. McCarty and Cahill usually arrive late in the penalty area, and are often wide open if there isn’t committed ‘tracking back’in midfield.
Because of their plentiful skill, New York’s midfield – and specificallyThierry Henry - can at times get caught on the ball. When the two teams met in April at RFK, Chris Pontius tookadvantage of a strip to produce one of United’s best goals of 2012. Though not overwhelmingly fast, the RedBulls’ back four plays high in support of their midfield, allowing for theconsiderable space behind them to be exploited in cases where the oppositioncan create a quick counter-attack.
BATTLE OF BACKS
One reason New York has been so good in the air is service,and plenty of that service has come from their outside backs. Connor Lade uses his pace to getforward, Roy Miller’s left foot can be a dangerous weapon and we all saw what Brandon Barklage is capable of when healthy. Because of their offensive qualities, the trio likes to push up – and that’s where D.C. might find some successWednesday night. If players likeNick DeLeon, Chris Pontius and even Andy Najar - should he be deployed as adefender - can catch New York’s outside backs upfield, quality scoringopportunities will ensue for United.