Thursday, May 13, 2010

US Open Cup: Red Bulls 3 New England 0 - A Look Back

Last night the Red Bulls took another emphatic step toward qualifying for this years Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with a comprehensive 3-0 thrashing of New England Revolution in Harrison.  RBNY fielded what was essentially a second choice XI that included a mix of veterans such as Carlos Mendes, John Wolyniec and Andrew Boyens, as well as youngsters such as Tony Tchani and Conor Chinn.  Chris Albright, making his first start in over a year after rehabbing from injuries, slotted in at right back, while Jeremy Hall started at right midfield.

New England brought only a 14-man squad to New Jersey, as they continue to suffer from a spate of early season injuries.  Red Bulls killer Shalrie Joseph also remains on the sideline as he sorts out substance abuse issues.  Even so, the Revs lineup included six or seven first team players, while the Red Bulls rolled out what was essentially a B or C team.  So you'd expect them to give us a game, right?  Not so much.

As we saw in the earlier USOC qualifier against Philadelphia Union, the Red Bulls have something this year that they did not have last year (or the year before) - strength in depth.  They also have a very exciting crop of rookies - such as Juan Agudelo and Irving Garcia (both of whom appeared as second half subs) - who can step in, inject pace and create chances.  Moreover, players such as Boyens and Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who looked lost in Osorio's system last season, seem steadier and more assured under Hans Backe's "keep it simple" approach.  Ubiparipovic in particular deserves praise for his hard work this season.  It was Ubi who won the deciding penalty in the Dallas game through sheer effort, and he was great again last night, terrorizing New England through the center of the park and scoring from a very nicely worked free kick (yes, I will take credit for predicting Ubi as a scorer).  Backe is bringing the best out of players who underperformed last season, and that - as much as anything else - accounts for the Red Bulls' early season success.

Speaking of terrorizing New England, Brian Nielsen, whose fitness has been questionable, started at right midfield and created chance after chance in the first half.  Had Conor Chinn not managed to trip over his own feet more than once (back to the Star Kick for him), the Red Bulls very well could have been three goals up by halftime, something Backe noted in his post-game interview.  Nielsen faded a bit as the second half wore on, but still had enough gas left in the tank to make a few dangerous runs down the flank.  John Wolyniec, who has clearly lost whatever speed he once had, wasn't brilliant but made the most of his chances, scoring two goals - the first off a rebound from one of Chinn's many misses and the second from a tap-in.  All in all, it was a strong performance from what was essentially the Red Bulls reserve team, and another ignominious streak has been broken.

The Red Bulls now will face Colorado in the final round of US Open Cup qualification at Fortress Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, May 26.  If they win that, a lower division team will be up next.  Season ticket holders can purchase seats starting today.  As I said in my post-game comments, which I am sure viper will post when he has time, fans really owe it to themselves (and the fantastic kids we have in our squad) to get out to Red Bull Arena for these USOC games.  For $18 you can basically sit anywhere you like, the Corner Pub and Club Lounge are open, and you could even argue that the reserves are playing more exciting soccer than our first team at the moment. 

I'd like to extend a big thank you to all the great fans and readers we met at the stadium last night, including Daniel Feuerstein, whose MLS podcast you should definitely check out.  Also major props to the fans in the supporters section, who continue to bring the ruckus, even for USOC games.

PS - One more thing. Can the person choosing the games' three Man of the Match nominees please actually watch the game? Greg Sutton, who could have set up a lawn chair in front of goal, was one of the three choices while Nielsen was not. WTF?
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