Monday, April 12, 2010

Red Bulls Look Listless in L.A.

Maybe it was too much to ask to expect the Red Bulls, a team that only won five games all of last season, to notch its third victory before Tax Day.  On the other hand, confidence should have been high after the 1-0 win away in Seattle and Chivas had not really shown much through their first two games.

In the end, however, the Red Bulls walked away from The Home Depot Center with nothing on a day when they created few chances and paid dearly for mistakes at the other end.  The performance was worryingly reminiscent of last season, when the club struggled mightily on the offensive end and failed to trouble the opposing goalkeeper on far too many occasions. Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised.  For all the talk of a new day in New York and New Jersey, the core of last year's team is still intact, retrofitted with a couple of parts imported from Europe.

Of course, it may have been a simple case of jetlag.  The early West Coast start saw legs looking a little heavy, and the players looked a little uninspired.  Dane Richards, who was so sharp in pre-season, has once again decided to try to dribble himself into corners.  Juan Pablo Angel, who has done next to nothing through three games, was also disappointing.  The center of midfield, which had looked solid in weeks 1 and 2, failed to retain possession.  Jeremy Hall continued to remind everyone that he is not a right back.  And of course Bouna Condoul showed why everyone has doubts about him as the Red Bulls first choice keeper.  Anyone hoping Bouna gets the boot after Saturday's performance is, however, likely to be disappointed, as Brian Lewis explains.

And finally, not to excuse Saturday's poor performance, but what scheduling genius decided to send the Red Bulls on two West Coast road trips so early in the season?

Still, let's keep things in perspective, shall we?  Through three games the Red Bulls have notched six points despite not playing their best soccer.  Tim Ream, the only Red Bulls player who did himself any credit against Chivas, was again as solid as a rock (boy oh boy did some scouts get it wrong on this guy).  Hans Backe showed that he's not content to just play it Osorio-style safe on the road, when he put on striker after striker at the end in an effort to level the score, including the debut of newcomer Salou Ibrahim.  If not for one huge goalkeeping lapse, this very well could have been a draw, since the second goal was a direct result of the "we're down a goal so let's go for broke" approach. 

So it's back home now for successive league games against FC Dallas and Philadelphia Union, as well as the US Open Cup match against the Union.  These next several weeks should tell us a lot.  Though Dallas took a point from Columbus on Saturday and Philly managed to win against DC United in its home opener (a result that took the edge off my sour mood), you'd have put both of these games in the "winnable" category.  If the Red Bulls can manage to right the ship over the next few weeks and - crucially - put the ball in the back of the net more than once, then the Chivas result will be forgotten.  If not, we could see a lot more roster changes coming.
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