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July 15, 2012 at 1:56 AM

Sounders FC vs. New York Red Bulls, preview and prediction

New York Red Bulls Logo.jpgSounders FC (8-5-6) vs. New York Red Bulls (9-5-4)

Sunday, July 15, 1 p.m., Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

National TV: ESPN (Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman)

Radio: 97.3 KIRO-FM (Gus Johnson, Kasey Keller)

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez

KEY RED BULLS PLAYERS

F Thierry Henry — According to reports, the calf and hamstring injuries are behind him and the superstar is expected to make his return. Looked to be the best player in the league in the early going and his nine goals and five assists are quite striking considering he’s only played what amounts to a third of a season. Will he be in form having started just two months since April?

F Kenny Cooper — What a resurgence for the veteran forward (11 goals in 18 games) after an underwhelming stay in Portland (eight goals in 34 games). He actually has as many goals this season as Chivas USA, through 20 games no less. Success has come in part by taking advantage of his physical attributes at 6 foot 3, 210 pounds. Hasn’t scored since May, but should benefit from Henry’s return.

M Dax McCarty — Has played all but six minutes this season, by far the most of the team’s field players, and those 1,614 minutes are already second most for him in a season (2,340 for FC Dallas in 2009). More of a workhorse midfielder than a playmaker and adds some bite to a team flush with talent. Has two goals so far and one more would tie a career high.

KEY MATCHUPS

Eddie Johnson vs. Markus Holgersson — Aside from Chris Wondolowski, there might not be a hotter MLS forward right now than the new Sounder who has six goals since mid-May (plus another in the Open Cup). The Swedish center back appears ready for his return from the ankle injury and has the size (6 foot 2) and athleticism to match up.

Sebastien Le Toux vs. Marc Burch — No need for a double take. The former Sounder is a Red Bull now after Friday’s big trade and I figure him to slot into the starting lineup for the departed Dane Richards. Seattle has had one player see time in all 19 MLS games this season and I’m guessing few would’ve predicted that guy to be the new left back.

Sounders goalkeeper vs. Red Bulls goalkeeper — Both teams are going into the game with question marks in goal. Will Michael Gspurning be ready to return Sunday having missed 12 games with the hip strain? He traveled and coach Sigi Schmid said he’s getting close. Will Ryan Meara be able to go or will New York have to rely on new signing Bill Gaudette? We’ll have to see.

PREDICTION

New York is one of two teams in the league that hasn’t lost at home, boasting a 5-0-2 mark at Red Bull Arena (Houston is the other at 4-0-3). The Red Bulls recent form, however, hasn’t been that great with a 1-2-2 run in the past five games.

I expect the injury returns of Henry, Holgersson and Mexican veteran Rafa Marquez to play a big role for the hosts, who just saw Chicago pull level to them on points in the Eastern Conference.

I actually give the edge to the home side in this one. Though the good news for the Sounders is this is the last trip east for an MLS game.

New York Red Bulls 2, Sounders FC 1

NY — Thierry Henry (Rafa Marquez) 60′

NY — Thierry Henry (pk) 78′

SEA — Fredy Montero (Cordell Cato) 82′

* * *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

COMMENTS

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