Rivalry Week is always a wonderful event to watch whether you're watching your team or just enjoying two Cascadia or I95 Cup teams knock each other around.
Yet somehow this year the New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls will play each other only twice, both national TV games on non-Saturday game days. This is a travesty, but perhaps not nearly as much as the lack of buzz around Sacha Kljestan's 2016 season.
So we chat today with Austin Fido of Once A Metro and dive into things that Revs fans long for - talk of first round byes and MVP candidates.
Don't forget to check out Once A Metro where I answered questions from Austin and Steve Toto ahead of today's game at 230pm on ESPN.
TBM: The Red Bulls sit in third place in the East behind TFC and NYC, we know this is a playoff team but can they avoid playing in that dreaded one-and-done first round?
AF: Good question. I'm not convinced. We have five of our last eight games at home, which is helpful. We should be able to get to about 52 points by the end of the season. But I'm guessing we'll need to crack 55 to get to the top two.
And to do that, we might need to finish out the season unbeaten in our remaining matches. I think we'll be close, but we'll stumble somewhere along the way and settle into third or fourth in the Conference - taking that one-and-done game at home.
TBM: He probably won't win the MVP award, but Sacha Kljestan is good at soccer. There's no question, just state your case for why he should be getting more USMNT and MVP talk.
AF: USMNT? Sacha is a string-puller: set pieces, open play - doesn't matter. He knows how to make the pass that makes things happen. Give him the ball and he'll find a way to get it moving forward. It's what he does. Not with pace or exceptional close control or a howitzer shot. He plays space very well: sees the gaps and the danger areas and puts the ball into those places. That's why he should be in the USMNT. He'll create opportunities. It's his thing.
Plus he's now extremely well versed in the style of play the world has embraced: counter-pressing, gegenpressing, high press - whatever you want to call it. The RalfBall variation that RBNY plays is distinguished by its emphasis on team over individuals. Sacha isn't a typical #10: he isn't in the team because he's the best pure creative footballer in the squad. He's in the team because he makes the team better. And you need that mentality and ability in a national team squad.
MLS MVP? The irony of Sacha's position at RBNY is he's a player in a team that isn't supposed to rely on one player. Our system relies more on the sum of its parts than any particular individual. It's why Alex Muyl has become a regular starter. There are better soccer players in the squad at his position, but they don't fit the system as well (at least in the opinion of the only guy whose opinion counts: Jesse Marsch). And Sacha has made himself irreplaceable. He doesn't lack for competition: there are more players who could play his position in the squad than any other. But he's unquestionably the best option for that position, and the only one that allows the team to fulfill its potential on the field.
So he plays in a team that isn't supposed to have a standout player - and he's the one who makes it tick. He's managed to be MVP of an anti-MVP team. The man behind the philosophy driving Red Bull soccer - Ralf Rangnick - is actively opposed to MVPs. "No soloists" is a phrase he likes to use. Sacha isn't a soloist. He's a conductor. And he makes the RBNY orchestra sing. He didn't write the music, he doesn't even play the instruments that cause us to win - he's not really a goal-scorer. But we don't score goals often without him. That's why he's the MLS MVP: he's getting singled out on a team that isn't supposed to rely on individual match-winners.
TBM: The Revs and Red Bulls only play twice this year, surely such great rivals deserve to play each other more often right?
Of course. We'd love to play you more often - so long as you're slumping.
TBM: How dare you sir...
Lineup (it'll already be out by the time this publishes, but here goes...): Robles; Zizzo, Collin, Zubar, Lawrence; Felipe, Davis; Grella, Kljestan, Muyl; BWP
Prediction: 2-2 - this feels like a banana-skin game for us.