Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mid-Week Musings

A little bit of news is breaking this afternoon, so let's get to that first. The Red Bulls have finally announced the details for their opening round match in U.S. Open Cup qualification. The match, against the Philadelphia Union, will be played on Tuesday, April 27, at 8pm, at Red Bull Arena. This will be just three days after the same teams face off in MLS league play. Tickets are priced at just $15. This game is NOT part of the season ticket package, but season ticket holders are being given a special pre-sale window to purchase tickets tomorrow; Thursday, April 8, from 10am-3pm.

Don't get in a huff if you're a ST holder, wondering why this game is not included. The U.S. Open Cup is sanctioned by the US Soccer Federation, and is not related to MLS, and is not part of the MLS season. For $15, you can probably upgrade your seat to midfield (these early round games, especially, are not typically well-attended), and given the scheduling of this game, 3 days after playing Philly, and just four days before an away game at DC, you'll probably get a nice chance to see several reserve players get an opportunity to show what they can do. I encourage all Red Bull fans to get a ticket and take advantage of this chance to support the team.

Also making news, Brian Lewis reports that Ibrahim Salou (or is it Salou Ibrahim - someone please clear this up for us) has gotten his work permit in order, will be training with the team on Thursday, and will be eligible for Saturday's tilt against the L.A. Goats. I guess I'd be surprised if he can get in sync enough to start on Saturday, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him get a good 25 or 30 minutes.

Other stuff: Chris Albright played the first half in yesterday's reserve scrimmage against Rutgers. He says he hopes to get 60 minutes next week against St. John's. Assistant Coach, Richie Williams agrees. (I hope so too!) Because he started the season on the Injured Reserve list, he is required to sit out the first six league matches. If his training continues to go well, we might see his return May 8 in San Jose. A healthy and effective Chris Albright is going to free up Jeremy Hall as an option on the wings, where we have seen inconsistent play on both sides.

Brian Lewis has a nice piece today about the new look defense (new, as in, we have one!). Coach Hans Backe's focus on 11-man, team defense since the first day of training has payed huge dividends. We've started the season with two consecutive clean sheets, and have given up only four goals in ten pre-season matches. Perhaps most importantly right now is that the players know the system and express confidence that, even as Coach Backe is recovering from Monday's surgery, they know what to do. They are comfortable in a system that works. For those of us who endured last season, go back and read that previous sentence.  It's OK to smile.

There was a small bit of discussion and concern this week on the message boards about the sighting of Sporting Director, Erik Solér, on the sidelines talking to Richie Williams, who, as you know, took on head coaching responsibilities while Coach Backe was resting (i.e.on morphine to curb the suffering of a gall bladder infection) at the team hotel. A small few viewed this as meddling. Theories arose that it was a matter of our European leadership not trusting an American with the team.  OK, my response to that is: give it a rest already. Personally, I am pleased to see him there. It reinforces everything I've seen that this is finally a front office and coaching staff who are all on the same page, and one with the correct combination of resources (European connections to players and team management, a team that has the ear of ownership, combined with a deep American understanding of college players, the talent pool, and MLS rules.) The triumvirate of Solér, Backe, and Williams looks to be one with great synergies (sorry, I hate that word too). If Solér, a man who lives and breathes soccer, and who is responsible for player acquisition, wants to be on the pitch and discuss the players and the game then all the better, I say. It would take reports of Jerry Jones-like meddling and interference for me to be the least bit concerned about this. All I can say to the Euro-conspiracy theorists is: get used to it!

Not Red-Bull related: The CONCACAF Champions League (aka, the FMF Champions Runaround) continued play last night. Cruz Azul evened the score of their two-legged semi-final match against Pumas UNAM when they scored a goal in the 36th minute. Then they slammed the coffin shut, putting four more goals in the net in the final 16 minutes of the match. They advance to the CCL finals with a 5-1 aggregate score. Pachuca brings their 1-1 first leg draw against Toluca home tonight to determine the other finalist.

In the next couple of days, we'll be looking ahead to this week's matchup against the 0-2-0 Chivas USA, with any late-breaking news concerning the two teams, as well as analysis and predictions from viper, whoshotsam, YouSuckCorrales, and me as well.
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