Sunday sees a clash between probably the two most wildly inconsistent teams in the Eastern Conference. The New York Red Bulls, currently in second place, won't swap seats with the Union should they lose the game, but both sides need a win to regain some momentum after some sloppy results of late.
Let's not kid ourselves when it comes to assessing the visitors; everything runs through the Red Bull's talismanic French captain. Now in the twilight of his career, Thierry Henry has gradually lost most of his terrifying pace but he will still catch out defenders who don't stay tight to him, whilst his movement off the ball compensates for a lack of genuine speed. The ruthless finishing is still present and correct though and he already has six goals for the season.
However, having seen the Red Bulls in the flesh recently (a very fortunate 2-2 draw with a Columbus team that the Union would spank 3-0 the following game), its not too difficult to spot the flaws in the visiting team. Firstly, to utilize the skills of Henry and midfielder Tim Cahill, they have a tendency to attack down the middle with a little too much regularity. Generally playing in a 4-4-2 formation, the Red Bulls also leave themselves open to the counter attack due to Cahill's love of pushing forward. This leaves the other man in central midfield, normally Dax McCartney, badly exposed. This problem could be further accentuated if New York manager Mike Petke opts to play Juninho Pernambucano, another attacking central midfielder, alongside Cahill.
Additionally, the backline could be a concern for the Red Bulls on Sunday. The physically imposing Jamison Olave will be out after a red card in the previous game (a 2-1 lose against Vancouver in the US Open Cup) meaning that Markus Holgerson will have a new partner in the middle of defence. Right back Kosuke Kimura seems to be a weak link when put under pressure so hopefully Danny Cruz will go straight at the Japanese defender.
All of that said, New York are still very, very dangerous if all their attacking options click into gear. Given how badly the Union struggled with Marco Di Vaio and his clever use of space, Henry could be an even more devastating problem. Cahill would also have to be watched closely given his propensity to make late runs into the box from midfield, but he too will miss this game. Finally, if Juninho plays, the Union cannot afford to back off and give him space to shoot. In his heyday, the Brazilian was probably the best striker of a football in the world (just look at this freekick for goodness sake) . He might be thirty-eight now but against Vancouver, the midfielder could clearly still make the ball dance. All of this means that the Union defense should be braced for a long ninety minutes.
Given that both teams are prone to comical defending but also scoring goals, a 0-0 draw seems unlikely and a footballing shoot-out would be a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.