Harrison, NJ – Red Bull New York will be going for its first win of the Major League Soccer season on Sunday when the gates at Red Bull Arena open for the first time in 2012 as Hans Backe's men host the surging Colorado Rapids.
For the first time since 1998, the Red Bulls (formerly the MetroStars) have opened the season with back-to-back losses. New York fell on the road to FC Dallas to open the season before losing at Real Salt Lake in its last outing.
But now the Red Bulls return home for two straight league games, and they know exactly what they must accomplish to avoid even more intense media scrutiny.
"Now coming home, to the home opener, having two games [at home], that will help a lot," Backe said. "We will just have to show that we are almost unbeatable at Red Bull Arena."
It has been a difficult start on paper for the Red Bulls, facing two of the top Western Conference sides in their home stadiums. But contributing to the disappointing results has been sub par play on both sides of the ball as New York has conceded four goals scored just once in the first two matches.
For a potent team with a great deal of attacking options, Dax McCarty shed some light on what has slowed down New York's stampede.
"We certainly haven't been very sharp in our passing," McCarty said. "This week, passing has been a main focus - making sure that we're keeping possession but not just keeping meaningless possession, keeping possession in the right areas of the field where we're going to be able to create chances.
"We haven't been able to create enough chances these first couple games, and when we have created chances it's been when we're down. So that's something that we want to work on, coming out on the front foot and getting the first goal. I think when we score the first goal in a game, we're very, very tough to beat."
The Red Bulls will be buoyed by the return of Designated Player Rafa Marquez. The Mexican missed the first two matches to serve a suspension that carried over from the end of last season, and his availability could not come at a better time as his experience should help facilitate the club's passing game.
If New York can't manage to keep effective possession, it could be long day in Harrison, NJ as Colorado has been quite impressive over its first two matches.
For the second consecutive year, the Rapids have started the season with back- to-back wins. In defeating the Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union, Colorado has managed to score four goals and concede just once.
The win against Philadelphia was all the more impressive given that it was at PPL Park, and that Colorado was reduced to 10 men after Jeff Larentowicz picked up a second yellow card.
"In MLS, that's what it comes down to on these away trips," said goalkeeper Matt Pickens. "Going away to other teams' home venues, it's hard to get points, let alone three points in MLS on a home trip."
With Larentowicz not able to suit up against the Red Bulls, Jaime Castrillon's role in the team became a lot more essential to Colorado's success at Red Bull Arena. If he can manage a similar performance to the shift he put in at PPL Park, then his head coach should remain happy.
"He did a great job offensively, participating, and scored a goal," head coach Oscar Pareja said. "And after that, he created some situations as well.
"And then when we needed him to get back here and do the dirty work, tidy things up in the middle and be out with the central defensive midfielder, he came and did an excellent job in that situation. He did very well."