Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Red Bulls Drop Final Preseason Match in Mexico

In what was truly a "game of two halves," the Red Bulls dropped the final match of their preseason trip to Mexico, losing 3-2 to Chivas de Guadalajara thanks to a late second half collapse. Dane Richards and Juan Agudelo registered two fine goals that had RBNY comfortably in front before the break, but it was a different story in the second half, especially after major substitutions resulted in Carlos Mendes playing at right back and trialist Stephen Keel replacing Marquez in central defense. Hans Backe took the loss in stride, praising the first half performance and claiming to be satisfied overall. And while it would have been great to win on Mexican soil and return home undefeated, there was still a lot to get excited about last night, as well as a few areas of concern and others that need work.

First the positives:
  • Once again Dane Richards turned on the style in a friendly match. It was great to see him burst by his defender and finish so confidently. He also had a major part to play in Agudelo's goal, sending in a nice cross after a Chivas giveaway.
  • Juan Agudelo got on the scoresheet. OK, so it's a goal that almost any striker could and should finish, but what impresses me about Agudelo is his movement. He is very skilled at getting himself into dangerous positions. If he keeps this up, I can't see how he is not in the Opening Day starting lineup.
  • Rafa Marquez looked comfortable and composed alongside Tim Ream and still managed to show off his long-range passing. I can't imagine there will be any team in MLS with a pair of defenders more comfortable on the ball than Ream and Marquez.
  • Starting in front of Marquez, Tony Tchani looked confident and did an excellent job of neutralizing Chivas attacks. I'd still like to see him get forward into the attack a little more, but he is certainly to be preferred to Carl Robinson, who we'll talk about later.
  • Teemu Tainio was tidy starting in place of the injured Chris Albright. If the Red Bulls can bring him in on a reasonable deal, he could be a very welcome addition.
Now the negatives:
  • Left back continues to be an Achilles heel for this team. Danleigh Borman lost concentration and allowed his man to breeze past him on Chivas' first goal. At this point, Roy Miller is the best option at that position, which is frankly a little scary. Why Backe and Solér have failed to address this weakness over the winter is hard to understand.
  • Carlos Mendes is no right back. Sure, he can play there in a pinch, but he just does not have the pace or positioning to hang with speedy attackers. Partly at fault for Chivas' first goal and totally at fault for the second (an own goal), #44 is a serviceable backup in central defense but should only be used at fullback in event of emergency.
  • Carl Robinson is another player who will be lucky to see much playing time behind Tony Tchani. We don't yet know what the Red Bulls are paying for the Welshman's services this season, but if it's anywhere close to what he earned last year you have to question their judgment.
  • The mop-haired Keel was only on the pitch a short time, but did not impress. He may end up being one of the first players cut when the team returns to Jersey this week.
  • Richards' red card. You take the good, you take the bad...
Still, you have to remember that this was a match up between a team in the thick of its regular season and another just rounding into shape, so fatigue played a role as well. Being able to hang with a club like Chivas (even its "B" team) this early in the preseason has to be considered a success. Now back to the States!

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