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Know Your Enemy: New York Red Bulls - Meeting The First (Abridged)

With a need to be brief, as the match kicks off in less than seven hours, a quick look at what resistance New York will offer in tonight's match.

Can their high-powered, big name offense out muscle a resurgent Toronto side? Or will the Reds get one over on the Bulls and continue their strong run under the watchful eye of Paul Mariner?

Recent Form

Since returning from the International break New York has played three matches, registering a win, a draw, and a loss.

The first, a 3-1 loss at Chicago was a disappointing display from a side looking to surge to the top of the Eastern Conference as the second phase of the season commenced. An early goal from Patrick Nyarko, making strong contact with a delicious Sebastian Grazzini lofted cross from the left side of the area to the back-post sending it back across the keeper into the net in the fourth minute.

Dax McCarty drew New York level early in the second half, with a low back-post header of his own from a Mehdi Ballouchy out-swinging corner kick. Then came the controversy, Chris Rolfe played Dominic Oduro through with a lovely chipped ball, his poke past Ryan Meara rolled slowly towards the net and appeared to cross the goal-line before Wilman Conde arriving with a sliding clearance. The goal was not given, despite extended protests from players and coaches alike.

Only a minute later with New York still reeling from the let-off, Chicago capitalized on a sluggish back-line, Gonzalo Segares pouncing on a rebound to smash the ball into the back of the net. Rolfe soon sealed the match with a simple tap-in after Nyarko destroyed Heath Pearce on the right flank, blasting around him on the outside and squaring a low cross through the goalmouth.

Three days later New York continued their travels west to take on Vancouver. A relatively uneventful 1-1 draw, each side tallying via a centre-back off of a set-piece late in the match.

The Whitecaps took the lead with a quarter hour remaining. A Davide Chiumiento corner kick was half-cleared, before Jun Marques Davidson played the ball back out to him on the right flank. Chiumiento sent a low cross through the heart of the box; the ball eluded three different attackers before falling for Martin Bonjour under the left side of the arc. He settled it and lashed a hammer blow back across the grain into the far-netting, for his first goal in MLS.

Eleven minutes later New York responded in kind. A right-sided short corner routine saw Joel Lindpere play into Dane Richards, who returned the ball to the Estonian, his chipped delivery into the centre of the box was met by Pearce, heading it down and back across to the near-post.

Most recently the Red Bull hosted Atlantic rivals DC United in a barn-storming Sunday night affair at Red Bull Arena,

Again New York conceded a goal in the opening minutes of the match - thirty seconds to be exact - Chris Pontius snuck away from his marker Brandon Barklage toward the near-post to meet a pinpoint Danny Cruz cross from the right flank.

Barklage made amends for his earlier error, marking his appearance versus his former club with a superb brace - his first goals in MLS. Firstly with a flying redirection of a left-sided Lindpere corner kick, beating Dwayne De Rosario to the delivery to stab it past Bill Hamid in goal.

The second, a glorious volley from just inside the eighteen yard box below the right of the arc. A Rafa Marquez free kick - a heavily disputed award - rebounded off the wall, up high into the air, falling tantalizingly for Barklage's sweet right-footed volley into the far-bottom corner of the net.

Jan Gunnar Solli extended the lead, netting his first MLS goal ten minutes into the second half, following up after his initial attempt from a Lindpere cross was kicked away by Hamid, converting the chance off the inside of the left post.

Pontius doubled his account on the night, collecting a deft Maicon Santos diagonal through-ball, as he ghosted past a flat-footed Roy Miller rounding the keeper and tapping into the empty net. Replays showed Pontius may have been offside, but the goal stood.

DC attempted to mount a comeback, but could not find a tying goal.

Projected Lineup

New York has battled a series of injuries for much of the season, prospects looked bleak, until an unheralded side including the likes of Connor Lade, Stephen Keel, and Tyler Ruthven backstopped the side to an impressive five-match unbeaten run.

Though many of the infirm have returned, the injury bug still lingers with Teemu Tainio, Markus Holgersson, and Marquez listed as out. Thierry Henry returned as a substitute against DC, but Conde is still nursing a sore groin heading into the match.

New York has dabbled in a number of formations - they played a 4-1-4-1 in Vancouver - but will likely take the pitch in their preferred diamond 4-4-2.

Their projected lineup is as follows: standout rookie Ryan Meara in goal; from right to left: Barklage, Pearce, Conde, and Miller across the back; McCarty at the base of the midfield with Solli, Lindpere, and Lade across the top; and leading-scorer - eleven goals - Kenny Cooper paired alongside Thierry Henry in attack.

football formations

Miller has been victimized in recent matches, playing a role in both goals conceded against DC. He could be rested with Lade dropping into the left-back slot. Dane Richards missed out in favour of an in-form, Solli, but will likely see the pitch as a second half injection of pace for Henry after sixty minutes.

Keys to the Game

Toronto, given their early success in recent matches, should press hard in the opening frame of the match. New York has twice conceded in the opening five minutes in their last three games.

The Red Bull are troubled by pace around the outside of the full-backs. Their back-line, with its constant changes limiting their time as a unit, lacks the communication and understanding has a tendency to leave gaps both aerially and on the ground.

The first goal against DC is a perfect example of both the lack of communication and getting beat to the outside, Pontius makes a run to the near-post, leaving Barklage trailing, and neither Pearce nor Marquez noticed the danger, leaving the man behind them open to convert the chance.

Goalkeeper Meara is excellent at reading the play and coming out to challenge attackers, staying big and forcing a mistake from the shooter. To beat him in these circumstances, Toronto must keep their cool and lift the ball over him into the unguarded net with a Leo Messi style chip-finish.

Keeping a lid on two of the most dangerous scorers in the league, Henry and Cooper - a combined twenty goals on the season - will be extremely important. Henry looked rusty in his cameo appearance, but it would be folly to approach him lightly.

Cooper has not scored in his last three matches after scoring in four straight. He is a streaky finisher - going the three matches prior goalless after scoring the previous four straight. He is due for a goal, so be cautious.

Points of Interest

New York;

Eastern Conference 2nd Place (Tied on Points for 1st)

Points 30, Games 16; Wins 9 Draws 4 Losses 3

Goals For 31, Goals Against 24, Goal Differential +7

At Home; 5-0-2

On the Road; 4-4-1

Last Five; W-T-L-T-W

The Red Bull are riding a five-match unbeaten spells vs. TFC, dating back to 2009, outscoring Toronto 16-2 over that spell ending with last season's 1-1 draw at BMO in October.

New York has fared well in Toronto, picking up two wins and two draws in seven matches at BMO Field. Their best result a 1-4 win in 2010 that included a Marquez smash and that Carl Robinson goal in the final quarter of an hour.

Toronto's best results over New York at home include a pair of two-goal victories: 3-1 in 2008 - powered by a Chad Barrett brace and an Ibbey Ibrahim strike in the final five minutes - and a 2-0 results in 2009 on goals from Pablo Vitti and De Rosario.

Toronto has twice been thrashed 5-0 in New York, but that shall not be discussed at this moment.