Red Bulls head to Austin FC in first ever MLS encounter

Aaron Long Red Bulls

History will be made Sunday night when the New York Red Bulls visit Austin FC in the first ever game between the teams. New York will look to bounce back after a disappointing loss at home to NYCFC. Austin have gone unbeaten over the past month and are right in the thick of the Supporters Shield race. This game has big implications in their respective Conference table.

Austin FC-New York Red Bulls first ever meeting headlines MLS weekend slate

It’s also the start of a pretty important seven days for the Red Bulls. Austin come into this game scoring the most goals in Major League Soccer. Without further-ado let’s take a look at one of the more intriguing games on the MLS weekend slate.

Red Bulls have huge week on deck starting in Austin

The 1-0 defeat to NYCFC last weekend was as deflating as it gets. First 45 minutes was even, but once they conceded in the second half the wind was erased from their sails. While they remain in third place going into Sunday, they can slip further down the table by the time kickoff starts. They’re one point above Montreal, two over Orlando, and three ahead of Columbus in the Eastern Conference. Fans are getting a little impatient with their team as their form has dipped just a little bit. Also, the secondary transfer window has opened and has seen three players exit the club, while no new signings have been announced as of yet.

But, priorities will come to the fore. After the game this weekend, the Red Bulls head to Orlando City for the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal. A cup final for the first time since 2017 awaits them should they succeed. However, there’s much speculation over whether Gerhard Struber will rotate ahead of the game in Austin. Should he do so, then you could see players such as Caden Clark, Dru Yearwood and others get starting minutes. If he doesn’t, then you could very well see an identical lineup to the one that played the Hudson River Derby. Either way, big decisions will be made.

One thing Struber will have to figure out is how this team, in his current five-at-the-back setup, can generate chances in possession. Stats wise, the team has produced low Expected Goals (xG) totals, having only scored one goal in four of their last five games. On the pitch, much of the build-up play results in crosses to the back post or counter-attacks at ultra speed. In either case, very little has resulted in a positive outcome. Most of it can boil down to the goals drying up in the striker department. Patryk Klimala is the teams’ best option up front, but hasn’t scored in over two months. Tom Barlow, well he has just two goals to his name. It’s a predicament that must change soon or else it’ll be a long night for the Red Bulls.

Austin FC look to keep pace with LAFC in Supporters Shield race

Josh Wolff couldn’t have imagined a better sophomore season for the newly minted Copa Tejas champions. Austin are one of the best teams in MLS, and are crushing it on a weekly basis. They sit just one point behind LAFC in the supporters shield race, and are on quite a roll. Unbeaten in its last seven, scored the most goals in the league (42) and are among the league leaders in goal differential. That’s quite a rise from finishing second-from-bottom last season in the Western Conference.

Veterans Felipe and Max Urruti were brought in and have elevated the group. The main man is Sebastian Driussi with 11 goals and five assists to his name, while Diego Fagundez has given the team five goals and seven assists thus far. More impressively has been their defensive stability, with Ruben Gabrielsen and Julio Criscante making a formidable pairing at center-back. Against the Red Bulls, they’ll be playing a team that has been solid defensively. The one thing that works against both teams in this game will be the weather, which could reach triple digits at moments throughout the contest. No doubt, water breaks will be implemented which will give both managers the necessary team talk.

This historic first ever meeting brings a lot to it. Austin FC, with a win can continue their fine form and stay with LAFC atop the league table. A win for the Red Bulls would be just what the doctor ordered ahead of one their most important games in recent memory at Orlando next Wednesday. A draw is likely the most possible outcome, but the heat could be the x-factor for two teams that like to press. Tactically, it’ll be interesting to watch where the advantages are on the pitch. It should be a fun one at Q2 Stadium.

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