Ah, the Red Bulls. No team in Major League Soccer is a better soap opera. And whether as the Red Bulls or the MetroStars before them, that title has been held by the team representing America's largest city for almost the entire history of MLS.
This year, though, something might just have changed. For once, there's a head coach on the sidelines with real MLS experience. Mike Petke may not have run a team before, but he knows the league better than almost anyone who has yet stood in his position.
Petke will get a test right off the bat in this game. Real Salt Lake is the polar opposite of the Red Bulls: a model of consistency in one of MLS' smallest markets.
Year after year, RSL has succeeded in the regular season and the playoffs. It's not a coincidence that the team is the only one from MLS that has ever reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League. Jason Kreis gets American soccer and how to succeed within its confines better than almost anyone else.
But Kreis has a test of his own to deal with right now. He had to let go of two of his best players - forward Fabian Espindola and defender Jámison Olave - in the offseason.
Javier Morales and Nat Borchers are still around, and Robbie Findley has returned to RSL after a few years in Europe. If Findley can recapture the form that got him onto the 2010 United States World Cup team, RSL will quickly become a contender once again.
And just in case this game needed another storyline, here's one. It so happens that Espindola and Morales' destination upon leaving RSL was - you guessed it - the Red Bulls. Naturally, the new New Yorkers will face their old team in their opening game of the Desert Diamond Cup.
Kickoff is set for 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It's only right that the last game of the day is the best one of the bunch.
New York Red Bulls (4-1-2-1-2)
Goalkeeper: Santiago Castano Defenders: Kosuke Kimura, Markus Holgersson, Jámison Olave, Connor Lade Midfielders: Dax McCarty; Tim Cahill, Lloyd Sam; Juninho Pernambucano Forwards: Thierry Henry, Fabian Espindola
Real Salt Lake (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Josh Saunders Defenders: Ricardo Blake, Aaron Maund, Carlos Salcedo, Lovel Palmer Midfielders: Yordany Alvarez, Cole Grossman, John Stertzer, David Viana Forwards: Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval
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