Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Red Bulls Draw Atlante, Prevail in PK's, in Pre-Season Friendly

The Red Bulls saw their first pre-season action tonight as they faced three-time Mexican champion Atlante in a friendly match. While still early, and meaningless, the match does give us a first glimpse at Coach Backe’s thinking regarding the first XI, as well as some actual soccer to soothe our collective football jones.

I don’t have much to say about the run of play; I'm writing this on the basis of the twitter feed play-by-play provided by the team. (Edit: They have since posted a *slightly* more thorough account of the match itself at the official website.) I think it’s worthwhile to take a quick look at the two lineups that took the pitch tonight, however.

The first half saw our first team line up. The Red Bulls came out in a 4-1-3-2.

----Henry(C) Agudelo
Borman Ream Marquez Mendes

Keep in mind that Bouna Coundoul and Roy Miller were both away with their national teams, and Chris Albright came up with a slight groin injury in a training session earlier in the week. I, for one, love this lineup and hope that we something very similar on Opening Day. Specifically, I like the opportunity to see Ream, Marquez, and Tchani working together to control the middle of our defense and our ball distribution out of the back. I’m also glad to see Medhi Ballouchy sitting on the bench in favor of Joel Lindpere and Jan Gunnar Solli. It’s also nice to see Juan Agudelo get the nod up top. I won’t mind if he has to share time and starts if it looks like he gets ahead of himself, but I like the indication that his work in pre-season put him in the position where Coach Backe wanted to see him paired up with Henry tonight.

After a scoreless first half, it was the youngsters’ turns to prove themselves in the second half, which, with the exception of Greg Sutton, saw a wholesale change.

Da Luz------Rooney------Kassel
Schneider Keel Lassiter Cortes

In the 68th minute, we got the following subs: Ibrahim (Chinn), Garcia (Kassel), and Hot (Cortes).

I don’t think you can read a lot into this lineup, but it does raise a couple of thoughts. First, no Ballouchy tonight? Could he be the International on the outside looking in? Or did he pick up an injury I haven't heard about? Also, I do think that Irving Garcia has his work cut out for him to make the team, and to be honest I think that’s fair. I know everyone just seems to love his tenacity, and he is fun to watch, but he has always struck me as someone who just is not complete enough to make a meaningful impact in MLS. Time will tell, though.

The play-by-play indicated that the Red Bulls came under extreme pressure for the last 20 minutes or so of the match, not surprising considering the inexperience of our back line. We were able to hold on for a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes.

Just for kicks (bad pun intended), the two sides took the match to penalty kicks after full time. The Red Bulls won the PK's 4-3. (For what it's worth: Lassiter and Hertzog made their kicks. Robinson and Rooney each had their shots saved. Then Ibrahim and da Luz hit theirs.)

All in all, it was a meaningless, but decent debut. We're getting a peek, at least, into how the team has been shaping up for the past couple of weeks. I'll be interested in the post-match thoughts of Coach Backe, which should be up at the official website soon. So, a good runout for the team, and one more reason to ask: Is it March 19 Yet?!?
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