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Three questions with Once A Metro

We spoke with Steve Toto of Once A Metro, SB Nation's New York Red Bulls blog, about the upcoming US Open Cup match between the Union and RBNY.

Soccer: U.S. Open Cup-Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bulls
In last year’s tournament, the Union beat the Red Bulls on penalties on a hot, sunny Tuesday in New Jersey.
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com-USA

Brotherly Game) Last season, the New York Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield. This season, they're third in the East and seventh overall for the Shield. What happened, and what should be done to improve NYRB's place in the standings?

Steve Toto, Once A Metro) The beginning of the season was maddening. The only starters the New York Red Bulls lost from 2015 were Matt Miazga to Chelsea FC and Damien Perrinelle due to ACL surgery. Granted they are both center backs, a team of this caliber was returning nine of their starting XI.

Besides a fairly large gap at CB, I don’t think any fan has an answer to why the team struggled so much to open 2016. There seemed to be ZERO chemistry. The offense didn’t score in five of their first six games. The defense let up 17 goals in the first eight games (2-6-0). Fans were highly confused. Then out of thin air, RBNY made a trade after losing to the Colorado Rapids. They picked up Aurelien Collin from Orlando City. That move has seemed to right the ship a bit.

The easy answer to move up in the standings is to win games. The Red Bulls threw away two points on the road this past weekend to Columbus. The defense needs to be tighter, they can't turn the ball over in the middle of the field and their passing needs to be more crisp.

tBG) The Red Bulls have only won once away from Red Bull Arena this season, and now they're making the short trip down the Turnpike on Wednesday to face the Union. What do they need to do to improve their form on the road?

OaM) I just mentioned some of these needs in the previous answer, but to elaborate, the Red Bulls need to play better all around. The defense had some huge gaps to start the season, but those are starting to shrink. The next main focus comes from distribution out of the back, not just bombing the ball up field and hopefully it finds a winger or Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Only the players would give an accurate assessment of why their road form is poor, but since MLS is a league built on parity, many teams struggle away from home. The Red Bulls need to do a better job at starting fast and finding rhythm early. Many times they give up early goals. On the road, that can weigh heavily on a team to play catch up. It totally messes up their tactics as well.

tBG) What would winning the US Open Cup mean to the Red Bulls and their fans?

OaM) A US Open Cup win would be monumental for the Red Bulls and their fans. Besides two Shields (and a couple minor trophies like the Emirates Cup), the Red Bulls still don't have a USOC or MLS Cup title. Fans would love to see that in the case.

Many MLS teams seem to throw out a blasé starting XI when USOC comes around, but as teams start to advance, they begin starting more of their main players. RBNY did this with their first matchup against Rochester. One could argue that three or four of the players who started the game would not have normally played against an opponent in league play.

They will be taking this game very seriously. The Union have made the finals the last two years and they are sitting atop the East for the first time, probably ever, since coming into the league. This is the first of four meetings, so it's an important leg up on the MLS competition side as well.

Injuries/Omissions: Damien Perrinelle (ACL surgery, played 35 minutes of the last NYRB II match); Shaun Wright-Phillips (hamstring); Kemar Lawrence (groin); Tyler Adams (concussion); Karl Ouimette (loaned to Jacksonville Armada on Friday)

Projected Starters (4-2-3-1): Luis Robles; Sal Zizzo, Aurelien Collin, Gideon Baah, Connor Lade; Dax McCarty, Felipe; Mike Grella, Sacha Kljestan, Lloyd Sam; Bradley Wright-Phillips

For our three questions with Once A Metro, go here.