Friday, September 17, 2010

Red Bulls 2 FC Dallas 2: The Fracas in Frisco

In one of the more bizarre and more entertaining games we've seen in MLS this season, the Red Bulls salvaged a 2-2 draw against ten-man FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco. It was a game that featured a red card, a freak incident that could (should?) have resulted in Thierry Henry getting his walking papers, a few nicely taken goals, lots of errors and rough play all around.

Facing an opponent that had only lost twice all season and had made a habit out of getting results home and away, Hans Backe switched things up and benched Juan Pablo Angel in favor of new arrival Mehdi Ballouchy, who slotted in at the top of a five man midfield, with Thierry Henry alone up top.  The idea, it seemed, was to negate FCD's ability to attack through midfield.  To a certain extent the plan worked.  David Ferreira, such a dangerous player all season for Dallas, had a very quiet evening.  Through the first 20 minutes or so the teams traded chances, though the Red Bulls retained the bulk of possession.  Then, at the 24th minute mark, a Heath Pearce cross, headed back across the box by the outstanding Eric Alexander, found an unmarked Milton Rodriguez who made no mistake.  Tim Ream was in no man's land, Bouna Condoul was left stranded and Dallas was up 1-0.  Game over, right?  Not quite.

Only a few minutes later, Brek Shea made an ill-advised, late challenge on Chris Albright and was correctly sent off.  Up a man, the Red Bulls started pushing for the equalizer and eventually broke through, thanks to some good work down the left by Joel Lindpere and a nice finish by new boy Mehdi Ballouchy, who had a solid debut all around.  In the aftermath of the goal, Thierry Henry went to kick the ball away in celebration and got a piece of Kevin Hartman's foot.  It was a boneheaded thing to do.  Hartman collapsed to the ground and had to leave the game with what looked like an MCL injury, spending the rest of the evening on the sideline with ice on his knee, but the referee and his assistants missed the incident, so Henry was not cautioned.

The full extent of Hartman's injury is still unknown.  He has been a key player for Dallas and would be a major loss as they push for the playoffs.  Henry tried to apologize on the way to the locker rooms at halftime, but Hartman and the FC Dallas trainer were having none of it.  Henry, who was already on a yellow card from an earlier incident, very well could have been (should have been?) sent off.  Though seemingly inadvertent, it was a reckless thing to do and I would not be surprised if the league stepped in and issued a one-game suspension. Anything more than that would, in my opinion, be excessive, but put yourself in the shoes of an FC Dallas fan for a moment (yes, on the evidence of last night they actually have a few).  Had Condoul been injured in similar circumstances, more than a few Red Bulls fans would be baying for blood.  One game seems fair.  At this point the Red Bulls are a near lock for second place in the Eastern Conference anyway, so what would it matter anyway?

Up a man and level at halftime, I liked RBNY's chances to press their advantage and take all three points, but their play continued to be tentative and Dallas defended tenaciously.  Roy Miller, who has the turning speed of an ocean liner and the tactical awareness of an ADD kid, was nearly victimized by Eric Alexander shortly into the second half, but his beautiful, curling shot rebounded back off the post.  Later, Miller wouldn't be so lucky.  Rafa Marquez, who had a pretty awful night all around, gave the ball away and Miller was burned again by Alexander, who this time made no mistake, scorching a low shot to Bouna Condoul's short side.

To the Red Bulls credit, they kept pushing for the equalizer and eventually grabbed it, when a cross from Lindpere to second half sub Juan Pablo Angel was headed by Jair Benitez past backup keeper Dario Sala.  2-2.  It was probably more than RBNY deserved on a night when a number of players were far below their best and Thierry Henry should have been sent to the showers early.  Dallas fought valiantly all night and you can see why they will be a very difficult matchup for any team come playoff time.  If the Red Bulls end up facing them, the story lines from this game could make for an explosive series.  The biggest takeaway for the Red Bulls may be the confirmation, if any was needed, that Roy Miller is the team's Achilles heel.  Burned time and time again on Thursday night, Miller has been unsteady all season.  Danleigh Borman is no world beater but he's probably a better option at left back than Miller at this point.  Backe's insistence on starting the Costa Rican despite his abject performances has to be questioned.

The road ahead doesn't get any easier.  The Red Bulls travel to Los Angeles next to play the Galaxy before winding up the season in October with three of the last four games at home.
blog comments powered by Disqus