Today, I celebrate 11 years writing about the Red Bulls. I started a blog way back when on WordPress called ‘Cut the Bull’. Looking back on it now, like any new writer, I feel pangs of embarrassment. I’m not sure what I was going for back then, or who I was addressing, but it certainly felt better to write about a team that felt nearly anonymous the previous 14 seasons. Little did I know that I would witness one of the worst seasons in MLS history that year. It all started, with a lopsided loss to the newcomer Seattle Sounders FC.
I present here, my review of that match. Have I grown as a writer. You be the judge.
BONUS: I correctly predicted the 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution the next week! My predictions have been far more erratic in the following years.
Seattle 03-19-09 (Posted 03-24-09)
The new MLS season is upon us and the first week has gone by with just a few surprises, from RBNY’s lame effort against expansion Seattle, to the midfield blast from Kenny Cooper to open his scoring account for ought nine. The teams all seemed to have picked up where they left off, and its business as usual for the rest of the league.
New York was coming off a disappointing (Funny how that word can pop up after an improbable run to the MLS Cup final.) 3-1 loss to Sigi and the Crew. After a lot of shuffling, the Red Bulls looked very much like the team that lost that game. The Bulls maintained some possession, but couldn’t ever put the pieces together in the final third. The team on a whole looked abysmal. The silver lining to the final result was the inspired play from both Jeremy Hall and Mac Kandji. Hall showed great presence on the field, maintaining defensive responsibility with a good attacking flair, while Kandji showed great foot work and strength on the ball.
The rest of the team just didn’t show up. Danny Cepero who looked infallible in the run up to the final, went to pieces coughing up both of the opening goals on what should have been easy saves. The first goal was shielded from Danny boy by Goldthwaite, but we have seen him make those saves before. It did bring to mind the opening goal from MLS Cup where a similar shot resulted in a goal when Danny overplayed the man and got himself out of position. The second goal was slotted through his legs from an otherwise weak shot.
But Cepero can not shoulder all of the blame. The defense was apparently not informed of the games start time. While I think a generous portion of the defensive miscues could be attributed to Andrew Boyens and his teammates failing to cover for the lumbering giant, their play overall seemed rushed and full of poor decisions. Goldthwaite must have forgotten that Seattle was fielding 11 men on the first goal as he pinched into the center leaving Freddy Montero acres of space. In fact, Freddy’s arm almost fell off from waiving to his teammates for the ball. The poor play was inexcusable, although it makes a very good argument from pushing Goldy to a central position while starting someone else along the flank. The second goal came on an even worse play. While the backline kept itself deep enough to keep everyone onside, Brad Evans ran in behind Pietravallo, who did his best impression of a traffic cone, and somehow managed to get the ball between Cepero’s legs. Just ugly! Osorio must have woke up at this point in the game, at least for a few minutes, because Andrew Boyens was promptly pulled and Jeremy Hall inserted. The whole game changed at this point and things settled down. While this could be the result of a team resting on a two goal lead, I think that Hall’s play on the right side, as well as a more competent Mendes in the middle of the field was what really did it.
And the award for lamest duck goes to, the Red Bulls midfield for constantly coughing up the ball and hanging the defense out to dry. Credit Sigi Schmid for knowing exactly what it would take to shut down the Red Bulls attack, take out Dane and Juan and the rest would take care of itself. The midfield seemed to willingly throw away possession at any given time. Ubi was invisible, Pietravallo took wild long shots, and no one remembered to tell Rojas that you can’t dribble through five defenders, even Dane knows that one. The scariest part of the game though was that no single player seemed to be able to send in a decent cross, not even Rojas who is supposed to be a left winger. The strength of this squad is supposed to be speed, utilized as a counter-attack threat for opening up space for Angel. Instead, every restart was sluggish. Cepero would gather the ball up with the intentions of quickly distributing to start an attack while the opposing team was on its heels. That never happened. Worst yet, Angel looked just as bad as the rest of these clowns. His passing was never sharp, and he never made himself a threat, midfield be damned.
There is some hope too, if you are willing to sift through the shit. For one, there was a total of six players missing from the starting 11 who will probably earn starting spots in the weeks to come, whether it be from suspension, injury, or other issues. Those six players are: Albert Celades, Seth Stammler, Alfred Pacheco, Carlos Johnson, Khano Smith, and Jon Conway. There should be a significant boost to the team with all of these players included. The only scary thing in all of this is that Khano Smith may be the best crosser on the team, a fact that can’t be ignored by the poor play of both Danliegh Borman and Dane Richards on either wing. Stammler and Caledes will make a very good pair in the midfield, and it should free up some of the play making responsibility from Jorge Rojas, who was enjoying a strong pre-season but failed to make an impact in the opening game.
In the end I would like to offer my predictions for the coming week. RBNY will rebound from such a poor showing to tie New England 1-1 at home for the second year in a row. This is my starting 11:
Smith UBI Sassano
Goldy Petke Mendes Hall
If I was running the team it would look more like this:
Smith Rojas Richards
Hall Goldy Petke Johnson
I think Hall could easily make the jump to the left side. He played on the left wing in college and his versatility definitely showed in his MLS debut. With Johnson good to go for the upcoming tilt wouldn’t this lineup make more sense. Plus, I think Kandji should be rewarded for his strong performance against Seattle, even if he didn’t score a goal. Once he becomes a better finisher, Kandji is going to be a beast. I’m making a bold prediction that he walks away with a 10 goal season. Anyway, enjoy and GO RED BULLS! (I just realized that Johnson will be away with Costa Rica. My ideal lineup still stands as what I would like to see, but it won’t come to fruition this week)