Red Bull New York will put its shutout streak, and two-game winning run, to the test when it welcomes the well-traveled Houston Dynamo to Red Bull Arena on Wednesday.
The Red Bulls have had to deal with a plethora of absences over the past couple of weeks, leaving head coach Hans Backe with no choice but to start an inexperienced back-four of Markus Holgersson, Tyler Ruthven, Connor Lade and Brandon Barklage. The unit defied the odds by keeping consecutive clean sheets in 1-0 defeats of the New England Revolution and Los Angeles Galaxy.
"Normally when you have so many starters out you are forced to defend and they did so phenomenally," Backe said. "It was a definite team effort. They were under pressure but didn't allow them a real opportunity, a lot of crosses and half chances, and Ryan [Meara] once again was phenomenal."
It will be interesting to see how Backe lines his team up after the impressive run. Rafa Marquez and Roy Miller are available for selection as the Mexican returns from suspension and the Costa Rican returns from injury, but how do they fit in after their replacements performed so admirably in their absence?
"I always said and thought that [Dax McCarty's] strength was from the halfway line and forward," Backe said. "But now perhaps playing a little bit deeper he has the whole picture of the field in front of him. His passing, he only had two, three unforced errors in this game [against LA]. Overall, defending phenomenal, so let's see if that is perhaps his position for the future."
The Dynamo have only played six games in the 2012 season, all of which were on the road as the club awaits the opening of its new cathedral, BBVA Compass Stadium, Saturday against D.C. United.
The opening of the new stadium may have left the team overlooking their midweek trip to the New York area, but striker Will Bruin stressed that kicking things off in the venue would be best with some momentum.
"Obviously we're very excited for it and we want the home opener to happen right away, but we still have one more game on the road trip," Bruin said. "Sometimes you have a tendency to look past the game because it's the home opener but then we get a reality check and realize that we have to get three points there. It would be a lot of momentum if we could go to New York and get a win for the home opener."
Houston has managed two goals in each of its last two games, but a poor defensive display has seen the club take just one point from that stretch. The Dynamo most recently played to a 2-2 draw against D.C. United before enjoying a week off.
"Disappointed, we fought back to get back into the game twice," said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. "We aren't helping ourselves by giving up some poor goals, but on the other side we are scoring goals on the road, which is a good thing. [D.C.] just scored one more goal than us."