Monday, May 31, 2010

New England 3 Red Bulls 2 - Red Cards and Red Faces

After last year's horrible 4-0 loss at the hands of the Revs I told myself I'd never return to Gillette Stadium for another game. So how did I find myself in Foxboro on Saturday night, watching the Red Bulls shoot themselves in the foot in a 3-2 capitulation to New England?

Well I guess I thought that things might be different this time.  The Revs were without the injured Matt Reis, the "might as well retire" Taylor Twellman, the departed Steve Ralston and basically had a team that was held together with duct tape and chicken wire.  Plus the Red Bulls had beaten them soundly in the US Open Cup a few weeks prior when they posed little to no threat (granted, with a number of second choice players in the lineup).  Of course Shalrie Joseph was back from his ganja suspension, but he'd be out of form and without his usual supporting cast, so how much damage could he do, right?  Uh yeah.  We'll get back to that later.  You can see from the pre-match video that we were all in a pretty confident mood, possibly for the last time this season.  Doubt we'll see any 3-0 or 4-0 predictions this week.  Well there's always You Suck Corrales, but even his confidence must be shaken.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, had some injury issues of their own, but at least Lindpere would be back and we had the youngsters to call on if we needed a shot in the arm.  Coming off two wins in a row (one of them admittedly meaningless) and in desperate need of three points to fix a season that has suddenly gone south, surely Hans Backe would have his guys focused and primed for this one.  Up front you could say that the play was much more sharp and focused until the shit hit the fan.  At the back - ehhhh... not so much.

Two massive defensive errors put the Red Bulls behind the eight ball before halftime.  First, Joseph made Petke look slow and foolish, lofting a beautiful pass over the Red Bulls sleeping defense that Marko Perovic had no trouble slotting behind Condoul.  1-0 Revs.  Already in a hole, Seth Stammler got the Red Bulls level again when what I assume was meant as a cross (this is Stammler we're talking about after all) floated beyond the reach of Burpo.  After leveling and taking back control of the game, the last thing we needed was an own goal, but that's what we got, as Tim Ream inexplicably blasted an embarrassing own goal of the year candidate in the upper 90 past Condoul.  Time to put a hold on that Rookie of the Year talk, m'kay?

After a very solid start to the season, our central defenders have suddenly fallen to pieces.  Were they never as solid as we thought, or are they simply going through a bad spell?  Time will tell, but Hans Backe must be livid about the way in which they have essentially spotted our opponents two goal leads in the last two league games (not to mention Petke falling asleep against Seattle).  For a team that hasn't exactly been scoring goals in bunches, these kinds of mental errors are absolute killers.

By now everyone has seen the Preston Burpo incident.  It's so stomach-turning that I'm not going to link to it here.  Suffice to say that it is the soccer equivalent of the the Joe Theismann broken leg against the Giants.  As Miguel mentioned, at 37 years of age you have to wonder if Burpo will ever make it back after a horrific injury like that.  I have my doubts, but all of us who were there to witness the incident certainly wish him the best.  We were right above the ambulance as Burpo was loaded in and I'm happy to report that Red Bulls fans applauded him with the rest of the crowd.  Tribalism has its limits. I've seen a few people assign blame to Richards, but to me it was a 50/50 ball and just plain bad luck.

The Burpo incident left everyone a little shell shocked for the remainder of the first half, but with an inexperienced keeper like Bobby Shuttleworth now between the sticks I liked our chances to bounce back in the second half.  After Angel put the equalizing goal in the net off a nice cross by Danleigh Borman, I expected it to be one way traffic in the Red Bulls favor the rest of the way, but the two red cards handed out by referee Andrew Chapin put the kibosh on that notion.  26 MLS games reffed, 8 red cards issued.  Hmm...

While I have no argument with Carlos Mendes getting his walking papers (boneheaded doesn't begin to describe it), the second red card, issued to Roy Miller, was a farce.  Any contact between Miller's elbow and Zak Boggs was minimal and accidental at best.  I don't see how viper can conclude from the video that it was intentional on Miller's part, but I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  Judge for yourself.  For me, what was most telling was the fact that Boggs bounced right back up after the ref ran over to send Miller off, something you don't see in the video.  Over in our corner we had a very good view of the incident and we were all in agreement that it was nothing.  Warranted our not, the second red card probably ended up costing the Red Bulls a point.  Playing down a man is one thing.  Playing down two men for nearly 20 minutes is another.  It was just a matter of time before Schilawski's eventual game winner went in.

In the end, the Red Bulls were doomed by a combination of defensive errors and refereeing decisions - one correct and one questionable at best.  A season that started so promisingly is suddenly in disarray.  Ten games in and a 5-5 record.  Blah.  Props to all the great RBNY fans who made the trip up to New England, including Keith Brown and his son Matt, Matt Scarano, Amos (aka Calpico on the Metrofanatic board), Trumanaldo and his family and Mr. Johnny Toro himself, John Russo.  The best part about the trip was meeting up with our fantastic group of fans - and going to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, of course.  I also got to watch the USMNT game at CBS Scene, right next to the stadium, so that was nice.

I'll have some more thoughts on the week ahead as we get closer to the final two matches before the World Cup break.  Getting at least four points from the Houston and Chivas games should be a minimum requirement, because after the break the Red Bulls will be spending a big chunk of time on the road.  Let's see what this team is made of.

Remember kids - defeatism is punishable by death!
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