tBG) The Red Bulls are in a respectable third place in the east at the All-Star break. Is this about where you expected the team to be?
OaM) I honestly don't know what I expected of this team at the beginning of the year, aside from making the expanded playoffs. Mike Petke was let go. We lost our best player, Thierry Henry, to an expired contract and then retirement. The roster went through an upheaval with the bigger impact guys like Jamison Olave and Markus Holgersson out the door. The Red Bulls had over half of the Starting XI from last year replaced when we started the season against Sporting Kansas City. The fan base (or part of it) was on a knife's edge, looking for any reason to go truly ballistic on management.
Given all of that, I'm happy with where the Red Bulls are. They could be better if not for a 4 game MLS losing streak (we're 8-2-5 outside of it), but overall the team shows a lot of promise. The biggest issue going forward will be keeping the core together. Kemar Lawrence (who is expected to be rested Saturday) and Matt Miazga are two young players who could attract interest before the foreign windows close, and a recent showing in the All-Star Game by Dax McCarty could draw some interest as well. If the Red Bulls can hang onto their core guys, and stay healthy, they are a threat to make MLS Cup, and even win it.
tBG) The Red Bulls are linked with Argentine winger Gonzalo Veron of San Lorenzo. Do you think the Red Bulls will sign him, and are there other signings on the horizon?
OaM) All reports suggest this deal is done and as good as signed. There has been no public announcement by the team, presumably as they are waiting for everything to get processed. Shaun Wright-Phillips (Bradley's brother) was signed this week also, and can play as a winger, central midfield, and according to him, right or left back. We have a rarely used (30 club matches since 2011) Chilean by the name of Santiago Dittborn on trial with us "for fitness", which happened to be the same thing we were told about Shaun. After that, I can't see the team bringing any other player in. These three should bring us to the roster limit and take up whatever number of international slots we happen to have right now (we're already over 8).
OaM) Anytime we lose to the Union is hurts. The Union ended it's winless streak at Red Bull Arena and then won again in the Open Cup after fighting over the match date. Of course this match has some added flavor from the Red Bulls side this week. I don't know the exact number of supporters, but you can bet that the Red Bulls will use up their allotment like they usually do for weekend matches. Coming off of impressive wins over Chelsea and Benfica (yes, I know they are only friendlies) and 2 straight MLS wins over Orlando City and the New England Revolution, look for the Red Bulls to come out buzzing and prove the two losses are more of a fluke than a pattern.
Predicted lineup: 4-2-3-1 (L-to-R): Luis Robles; Roy Miller, Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, Connor Lade; Felipe Martins, Dax McCarty; Shaun Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan, Lloyd Sam; Bradley Wright-Phillips
Predicted score: Union 1-2 Red Bulls: The Red Bulls are looking for revenge and with no MLS match last weekend, all of the players should be fresh and up for dispatching the Union.