This weekend, MLS fans will see the top two teams in the Eastern Conference go head-to-head when the New York Red Bulls travel to RFK Stadium to face conference leaders DC United. In a conference filled with big-money clubs like NYCFC and Orlando City, it would’ve been easy to forget about these two clubs. The second matchup between these two teams could serve as a big early season momentum boost for whatever side comes out on top.
After finishing last season on top of the Eastern Conference, and losing to this weekend’s visitors in the second round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, DC United has quickly regained their pole position in the East. United have gotten off to a rocket start with three victories in their first four games, with the only loss coming from the Red Bulls. Other than the game against New York, Ben Olsen’s side has not allowed a single goal.
US international Bill Hamid has been immense in net, and many could argue that the 24-year-old has been the best player on the team. The reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year has almost single-handedly kept his side in every game this year, and his performances against the Galaxy and Orlando City have shown fans why many question if the keeper will finish the season in the nation’s capital or overseas. Hamid will again be the man in the spotlight Saturday and his performance will be a main decider for who comes out with the points.
A major point of concern for United fans, however, has to be the lack of scoring prowess on their roster. The team has yet to score more than one goal in a match, and the Red Bull defense has only allowed two goals in their first three matches. Two of DC’s three goals have come after the 90th minute, and the rest of the time, the forwards saw little to no action in front of the net. The lack of a clear leader on attack could be the downfall of United’s season, but you can’t argue with three wins in four games. As long as Hamid keeps the other team off the board, it looks like United will somehow scrape together a chance.
I think most people forgot that New York had two teams this season after the introduction of NYCFC. The Red Bulls had a rough offseason as they lost two legends of the game in Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill to retirement and a change of scenery respectively. 2015, however, has seen the Red Bulls get off to a nearly dream start collecting two wins and a draw from their first three games. After a 1-1 draw against Sporting KC, Jesse Marsch has led his team to two straight victories scoring twice in both of those matches.
Contrary to the scoring struggles of their hosts, the Red Bulls have a glut of attacking options. Last year’s top-scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips has already scored twice this season, with the best of the two coming against DC United. Veteran midfielder Lloyd Sam has helped shoulder the scoring burden netting two of his own. DC United will somehow have to contain both Wright-Phillips and Sam Saturday and take some of the pressure off of Bill Hamid and the men in attack.
This will be New York’s third road game of the season so home field advantage might not help out DC as much as fans would like. I think that this rematch will see the backline of United finally break and Bill Hamid will try in vein to keep his side in the match. My final prediction is that the Red Bulls walk into RFK and leave with a dominant 3-1 victory over the hosts.