Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cross-Atlantic Correspondence: DeRo, Depth, Dynamo, Doop

Is Dwayne De Rosario the missing link between heartbreaking failure and MLS glory?
Good afternoon, one and all, and welcome back to Cross-Atlantic Correspondence. I'm Glenn Williams, an English New York Red Bulls fan. This is the second edition of my new feature; unfortunately I couldn't get a piece written last week but not to worry, I'll cover everything from the past fortnight in this one stretch of text.

I'll begin with the 0-0 draw against Columbus Crew, which in my eyes is as much of a win as the opening day effort against Seattle Sounders. A patchwork team consisting of three debutants - Alex Horwath, Stephen Keel and Luke Rodgers - somehow managed to snatch a point, and could even have taken all three had Joel Lindpere's late effort found its way into the net.

Sometimes the best way to analyse a top team isn't by their first choice XI, but the strength in depth. I've been arguing recently that while Real Salt Lake are undoubtedly the best team in the league, we may well have the strongest roster. The goalkeeper uncertainty between Bouna Coundoul and Greg Sutton, and the emergence of Horwath, shows just how much talent we have to choose from between the sticks. Carlos Mendes and Keel are capable defensive understudies, Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli provide versatility, Carl Robinson is ready to add his experience at any moment and Luke Rodgers should be a deadly substitute striker when fully fit. Chris Albright is still recovering from injury, Mehdi Ballouchy may have some sort of future and then there's the draftees John Rooney and Corey Hertzog.

Wow. BUT - there's no point having capable understudies if the first-teamers aren't doing the job. Which leads me to our last game against Houston Dynamo.

I would argue that a team pushing to be the best in MLS simply has to win at home against sides like Houston. Despite fielding a full-strength starting line-up consisting of fit-again Frenchmen and returning internationals, we were terrible in the first-half and lucky to go into half-time level. Hans Backe introduced new signing Dwayne De Rosario for the increasingly-pointless Ballouchy at the break and his presence uplifted the team. The former Toronto man provided a killer pass through to Dane Richards to convert his first goal of the season.

Then Bouna Time completely unwound and we were back to square one again. There was no reason for Coundoul to race off his line, other than to gift Weaver an easy lobbed equaliser. Sutton is currently out of action for an undetermined left of time, but when he returns Backe must establish the Canadian as his first choice. At his best Coundoul is the better goalkeeper, but the errors and drawbacks aren't enough to keep him in the gloves. Sutton is reliable and deserving of his chance, and we must hope he'll be back soon and stay fit throughout the season.

So what else has happened? I can't think of anything. Erm... er...

Oh yeah, we signed Dwayne De Rosario.

I'd like to apologise to everyone on Twitter for insisting they should be wary of the date. Trust the Red Bulls to pull off this massive acquisition on April Fool's day. I didn't disbelieve it, but I was certainly worried it would turn out to be a prank. There's nothing funny about it however; this is huge. DeRo is the final jigsaw piece, the missing link between a work horse midfield and talented forwards. He proved his worth just minutes into his debut with a defence-splitting through ball, and I fully expect him to do the same week in, week out.

The man most likely to benefit from this is Thierry Henry. Who would have thought a World Cup winner and one of the biggest players in the world would need an MLS player to boost his career? Henry is still finding his feet in a New York jersey, unsure of his exact role. His main problem is dropping back to find the ball, meaning he is out of position to score the goals he was signed for. With DeRo providing ammunition from the creative midfield position, Henry can stay up top and convert whatever comes his way.

A quick word about Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman, who were drafted to Toronto in exchange for DeRo. Tchani was one of my favourite Red Bulls, a promising young midfielder who was tenacious and hard-working. He'll be a big player one day, in MLS and perhaps beyond, but losing him is the price we've had to pay for immediate success. Borman was a reliable left-sided player who will need replacing, but he was never vital to the cause. I wish them both all the best.

This weekend the Red Bulls travel to Philadelphia. Local rivalries always worry me as a pessimist, because defeat doesn't just mean three points lost, but also the suffering of raging bragging rights towards you. Union have proved themselves a sturdy outfit this season, and what with our lack of killer instinct right now we could struggle to break them down. You can check back here on The Viper's Nest on matchday to see my prediction, which will depend how positive I'm feeling. If our players can do the job they're picked to do, we should win this game. Here's hoping we see some promising performances on Saturday and beat Union on their own turf!

(Glenn Williams also runs, spreading the word of MLS to his fellow countrymen as well as offering a British perspective of the league to American and Canadian fans).

blog comments powered by Disqus