Friday, May 21, 2010

Red Bulls 1 Columbus Crew 3 - A Look Back

What a frustrating evening at Red Bull Arena!  In a game where the Red Bulls dominated possession, created numerous scoring chances, got a goal from rookie Tony Tchani, and hit three posts, it was the under-manned and Schelottoless Crew who walked away with all three points thanks to egregious defensive miscues by Mike Petke and Tim Ream.  A Red Bulls defense that has generally looked solid throughout the season, with the exception of the 10-man game in San Jose, lost focus at crucial moments last night.  Now for the first time this season RBNY is looking up at another club atop the Eastern Division standings.

After the Red Bulls controlled possession early and moved the ball well, former Metrostar Eddie Gaven opened the scoring on what was essentially Columbus' first real chance of the game.  Left completely unmarked in the 18-yard box, Gaven easily put his header past Bouna Condoul in the 35th minute.  The Red Bulls reacted well and showed some fight as Ubiparipovic (again having a strong game) found space down the right side, drove past his defender and fizzed a low, stinging shot that bounced back off of Will Hesmer's best friend, the Red Bull Arena goalposts.  But when the massive Columbus defender Andy Iro somehow beat two RBNY defenders on a corner kick to double the lead before halftime, it was hard to see New York clawing its way back.  Columbus doesn't lose often and certainly doesn't make a habit of surrendering two-goal leads.

Still, the Red Bulls continued to work hard through the second half and managed to finally beat Hesmer when he came out for a looping cross, got nowhere near it and was stuck in no man's land.  Tchani rose above his marker and nodded the ball into the back of the net for his first ever MLS goal.  If you can take one positive from this game it was the performance of Tchani, who showed why he is such a beast in midfield and worked his socks off in his substitute appearance.  The comeback, of course, was short-lived, as a Keystone Cops routine at the back between Petke and Ream let Emilio Renteria (pictured) through on goal.  He couldn't miss, and for all intents and purposes the game was over.  In the end, the Red Bull enjoyed a massive advantage in corner kicks, shots and possession but failed to make it count for anything.  

So what can we take away from this one?  First, I think it might benefit Ream and or Petke to sit out a game or two.  With Andy Boyens gone on World Cup duty, there is not exactly a lot of depth at the back, but a day off might do our central defenders a world of good.  If Backe starts both for what is essentially a meaningless friendly against Juventus on Sunday or the US Open Cup game against Colorado next week, I will have to start seriously questioning his judgment.  Petke was celebrating his 300th MLS appearance, but it was easily his worst showing of the year, and maybe as forgettable as the opening day in debacle in Seattle in 2009.  Ream, after starting off the season so strong, has been guilty of rookie mistakes in two of the last three league games.

Second, Thierry Henry cannot arrive soon enough.  If you are a Red Bulls fan, you should be praying for France to exit the World Cup early so that TH14 can get in sync with the squad and be ready to go when the MLS World Cup break ends.  Salou Ibrahim and Macoumba Kandji have proven themselves to be men of glass.  Juan Pablo Angel is looking slower than ever and gave the ball away at an alarming rate last night.  John Wolyniec is a fan favorite, but is a late game sub at best.  Conor Chinn is fine for USOC games, but he is still young and misses three chances for every one he puts away.  Juan Agudelo is away on national team duty and is a long-term project.  Backe was so short of forward options last night that he ended up slotting Dane Richards in up front alongside Angel.  Richards acquitted himself fairly well, though his finishing could definitely be faulted.

So here we are with a near .500 team after a blistering start against some mediocre opposition.  The Red Bulls will desperately need to get back on track a week from Saturday in New England, which has never been a happy hunting ground.  Two more home games follow the first week of June, against Houston and Chivas USA, before the league goes dark for the World Cup.
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