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How You Doin' New York Red Bulls? Part Deux

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In the lead-up to Toronto's third game this week and third meeting with the New York Red Bulls I exchanged questions with Matt Coyne over at Red Bulls blog Once A Metro. We talk Cahill, Henry and playoffs - So, New York Red Bulls, How You Doin'?

Thierry trying to outdo Jonathan Osorio.
Thierry trying to outdo Jonathan Osorio.
Mike Stobe

Waking The Red: Tim Cahill has not only been a thorn in TFC's side but he's tied with Thierry Henry as the team's leading goal scorer - how does his likely being out on Saturday affect New York? Or does it?

Once A Metro: As it stands, Cahill -- who might make the bench, but almost certainly won't start -- being out would put Eric Alexander in central midfield next to Dax McCarty.

But when he does come back, it's set to complicate things a bit for the Red Bulls. Bradley Wright-Phillips has emerged as the choice next to Thierry Henry (he'll likely get the nod Saturday) and Head Coach Mike Petke has been infatuated with Alexander this season. Cahill can play up top or as a midfielder. If I were to make a bet, Alexander would go to the bench, but Petke has found a way to shoehorn Alexander into the starting XI, so we'll see.

As for Saturday's game, Alexander can make some great attacking runs, but lacks the box-to-box qualities of Cahill. That means McCarty will have a more defensive role, while Alexander gets forward. The former Portland Timber and FC Dallas man can also be invisible for large parts of the game

WTR: Thierry Henry vs. Petke - I know that this has more or less blown over but is the fight between Henry and Petke a worrisome sign for the future or just the same old song of player & coach not getting along but getting blown out of proportion due to media presence?

OAM: Look, the fight between Henry and Petke was only a big deal to the fans. Sometimes people get into it and stress boils over into a fight. It's always been my experience that sometimes that stuff happens. That doesn't mean the two are forever sworn enemies. And if you look at it, both Petke and Henry run hot, so while it was momentarily concerning, the shock quickly wore off.

If anything, it's made the two better. Reportedly, the fight was over communication and, apparently, that's improved. That made Petke a better coach. And Henry raised his game against Houston, so he got better, too.

WTR: As a playoff bound team; again (we're not jealous, really) what has most contributed to the team's success this year? Do you look at the strength in the midfield or is it just that the entire team is hitting on all cylinders?

OAM: If it makes you feel better, it's still possible we don't make the playoffs, but it certainly isn't likely...

Anyway, I think it's leadership. Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh has used restraint when building a roster. If Erik Soler and Hans Backe were in still in charge, they would've blown up the team in the summer and made a slew of signings just to make a slew of signings. Instead, they made needed additions and didn't go chasing big names for the hell of it. Plus, Roxburgh has done a lot in reorganizing the soccer side of the team.

Then, on the sidelines, not only is Petke willing to admit his mistakes, but he's a better motivator. Sometimes his decisions are maddening, but the thing the team hasn't done is consistently come out flat, give up goals, and have to work back from behind, the hallmark of Backe's last season, or amass draw after draw after draw, the hallmark of the 2012 Red Bulls.

Arguably, the 2013 Red Bulls are less skilled than the 2012 Red Bulls, but are getting better results. So much of that comes from the top, from Roxburgh to Petke to Henry (or whoever is wearing the captain's armband).

WTR: Projected score and lineup?

OAM: Starting XI: Robles; Carney, Holgersson, Olave, Kimura; Steele, McCarty, Cahill, Sam; Henry, Wright-Phillips

Score: 2-0 RBNY

Thanks for the chat Matt.  Check out my answers to Matt's questions over at Once A Metro later on in the day.