The New York Red Bulls started this season on a major upswing, considering their raucous offseason. The team jumped out to a 3-win, 4-draw unbeaten streak but have found the last couple weeks a bit tougher. After a 2-0 defeat to a weak Philadelphia Union and a last-gasp loss in stoppage time against Seattle, RBNY arrive in Houston on their third consecutive road match, looking to find their footing.
Houston, conversely, managed a 1-1 draw in New York City on an excellent reaction strike from Will Bruin. That puts the Dynamo on 7 points in their last four matches, trying to reclaim ground from a poor homestand in April and May. Bruin, for his efforts, has been rewarded with four goals in his last four starts. As he continues to relish his minutes alongside the flash of Giles Barnes, Bruin is beginning to prove his influence on a team that seems to have found a rhythm.
Brad Davis has returned to training this week but still appears to be nursing his right knee. The team captain sat out in NYC but may return on Friday. New Colombian signing Mauro Manotas has been present at training but, with his visa still in the works, is unlikely to play.
Giles Barnes and Jermaine Taylor, called up to Jamaica's Copa America team, will be available on Friday before departing for Chile the following day. They will both remain out for most of June, depending on the Reggae Boys' success. Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido, while not competing in the Copa America, will be leaving following Friday's match for a friendly against a Brazil team undergoing tournament preparations. The duo will return after that match.
Injury-wise, New York are missing two players - Sal Zizzo (fractured tibia) and Ronald Zubar (quad contusion). Both are expected to miss this match.
Kemar Lawrence v. Will Bruin - Kemar Lawrence holds the title as "Best Squawka Defender" but a big part of his success has been playing alongside the excellent defensive work of center back Damien Perrinelle. This match, however, Lawrence will have to do without the presence of the suspended Perrinelle and that may be just enough for Will Bruin to break through an otherwise solid defense. With Bruin on a scoring run lately and Barnes set to leave for the next few weeks, the match against New York may be the last for awhile that the Dancing Bear will play alongside a creative strike partner.
Lloyd Sam & Bradley Wright-Phillips v. the Houston defense - The tandem forwards up top for New York rival that of Dempsey/Obafemi, producing 9 goals and 6 assists between the two of them thus far. They are quick, creative, and 2014 Golden Boot Wright-Phillips has been known to punish the lackadaisical defense of past Houston teams. The Dynamo's defense is vastly improved over last season so New York may not find it as easy to penetrate. Jermaine Taylor and David Horst cannot afford any errors in defense. That means Taylor, who has been caught slipping marking lately, should tighten up against New York's attack.
Felipe v. Luis Garrido - The Honduran-Houston midfielder will likely have one last run-out before facing Brazil next week and Friday night provides a great chance to shut down the integral Felipe. The Brazilian midfielder is key to delivering passes to the front and is dangerous on his own, averaging two to three shots per game. Being aware of presence in the midfield and not letting him run behind will be essential to preventing New York's forwards from receiving the pass. It will be on Luis Garrido to neutralize him, very similar to how he did against Portland's Diego Valeri last month.
The Houston Dynamo host New York Red Bulls on Friday, June 5th at 8:00PM CDT. Tickets are available at HoustonDynamo.com and - don't forget - this is the first match where METRORail service will be operational. The match will be broadcast on Unimas. English available via SAP button on your remote.