HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls have not enjoyed a strong start to the season, losing to two of the more talented teams in the league by a combined scored of 4-1.
Things don’t get any easier on Sunday, when the undefeated Colorado Rapids try to spoil the Red Bulls’ home opener (4 pm ET, ESPN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
To get their first win and calm the nerves of impatient fans, New York must contend with Colorado’s upgraded attack, where technically gifted newcomer Jaime Castrillón will likely be deployed alongside the likes of experienced veteran Brian Mullan and livewire rookie Tony Cascio.
WATCH: Márquez-Castrillón a key matchup
“You can see that the team is suddenly more mixed in a way,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “With that technical skill, it can make a difference, it can win a game for them or set up goals. They have a better mix this year.”
Something playing in the Red Bulls' favor is that the Rapids will be without midfield ace Jeff Larentowicz, who is serving a suspension after receiving a red card in Colorado’s 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union last Sunday.
Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni is also sidelined for the match after suffering concussion-like symptoms in practice this week from a knock sustained in the Rapids’ season-opening win over the Columbus Crew.
But even that, combined with midfielder Rafa Márquez‘s return to New York’s starting lineup after serving a suspension of his own, might not be enough to cure the Red Bulls’ problems in midfield.
Not when Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards have looked so ineffective for New York, and not when they are facing a Colorado team that blends hard work and creativity so well.
“They have guys that are very comfortable with the ball and anytime that you pay against a team like that, you know they are going to have a little possession,” said Dax McCarty, who is an option to start next to Márquez on Sunday with Teemu Tainio questionable with a deep ankle bruise.
“You don’t want to panic, you don’t want to get frustrated,” McCarty added. “The key for us is to stay patient and keep our midfield and defense tight.”
Failure to do that could result in an 0-3 start to the year for the Red Bulls, and that is something that would point to more than just problems in midfield.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.