UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls were the protagonists last time they played D.C. United, taking the game to their bitter rivals in a scoreless draw at Red Bull Arena last month. It was by far one of the best performances the Red Bulls had this season.
Don’t expect them to try and come out playing like that this weekend, though.
The Red Bulls are planning on taking a more defensive-minded approach when the two teams meet again on Saturday night at RFK Stadium (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), and the main reason for that is because New York are the ones playing as visitors this time.
Yes, the struggling Red Bulls do intend to deploy some of the same tactics they used when they faced United on March 16, but don’t expect them to be pushing the tempo for large stretches like they did that day.
“Obviously, it’s on the road and as much as I am a gung-ho kind of guy – I want to play the style all the time – there’s going to be balance in this game that we’re going to be more of a road mentality,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said Thursday after practice. “That’s more out of respect for D.C. at RFK Stadium. It’s a difficult place to play, they’re a good team there and they have a lot of quality. But obviously we’re looking to go in and get the most out of this game and the most is three points.”
For Petke, what the Red Bulls need to do to grab their second win of the season is piece together a complete performance. The club has shown glimpses of a quality team at times in recent weeks, but too often they have shot themselves in the foot with untimely errors that have wound up costing them points.
“If we go out there and commit and put large parts of the last four games together, there’s no reason you shouldn’t get three points,” said Petke. “But if we go out with lapses in mindset, uncertainty in certain situations and lack off effort, well then it’s going to be a very tough night.”
Red Bulls players seem to agree. Tim Cahill admitted after Thursday’s training that the club has talked this week about being more defensively disciplined so as to avoid hitting the “self-destruct button” like they have in recent matches.
That starts with this Saturday’s battle with United, who will likely try to come out flying against the Red Bulls as they search for their second win of the season.
“They have a team that has a lot of technical players and like to have the ball as well,” said midfielder Juninho. “Here, they sat back looking to hit us on the counter attack but I think in this game they will come out trying to play a little more. I think it will be a more difficult game than the one we encountered at home, but we have to adapt mentally, physically so we can win.”