Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cross-Atlantic Correspondence: Earthquakes Suffer Aftershock

Rodgers celebrates scoring against San Jose Earthquakes with a smiling Henry
Welcome to what has become a bi-weekly feature (due to very restricting time retraints) on The Viper's Nest. Cross-Atlantic Correspondence, an English perspective of our beloved New York Red Bulls.

I'd like to begin with an apology. Luke Rodgers, I am sorry. Truly, honestly and deeply sorry. Ever since I heard the first muttering that you could be on your way to New York, I did nothing but moan, groan and complain. A player from the English third-tier, who has been in trouble with the law, pulling on the red-and-white jersey? A terrible prospect I thought. Why was Hans Backe so relentlessly pursuing this guy? Oh how ridiculous it would be if the world class Thierry Henry (winner of the Premiership, La Liga, Ligue 1, FA Cup, Copa del Rey, World Cup, European Championship and much more) was paired with this troublesome, two-bit nobody.

But that's exactly what happened for the first time this past weekend as New York Red Bulls took on San Jose Earthquakes, and the two hit it off immediately. A match made in heaven, like love at first sight. Rodgers grabbed an early brace, reacting quickly to flick a Dane Richards cross past Jon Busch before tapping in a centre from... Henry.

The two combined once again in the 88th minute, with the Englishman dinking a beautiful cross onto the head of Henry to end the Frenchman's 11-hour goal drought. So that's two goals and an assist for Rodgers, and a goal and assist for Henry.

Agudelo who? The promising youngster was relegated to the bench, watching his replacement stake a claim for the first team. Rodgers has likely earned the nod tonight against DC United, but Agudelo shouldn't be put out; he's only 18 and has plenty to learn, and what with his US national team heroics and attention from Athletico Madrid, he could do with being taken out of the spotlight every now and then to let the hype die down a little.

So Rodgers found the net twice and worked his socks off, making the San Jose defence uncomfortable all evening, and Henry tried and tried and tried until he was rewarded with a goal in what was undoubtedly his best performance for the Red Bulls. But the rest of the team were excellent too. Bouna made a good save from Wondolowski, Ream was solid after his mistake in Philly, Rafa played like a defensive playmaker, Tainio was solid once again and even the much-maligned Roy Miller was impressive.

Should we be getting our hopes up? No. It was a magnificent 90 minutes, in which the Red Bulls didn't just win and exact some level of revenge for the Earthquakes eliminating them from the 2010 play-offs, but looked completely dominant and played exciting football. But they won impressively against Seattle Sounders, then went three games without a win. As the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are proving here in England, it's no good playing some beautiful soccer if you're going to drop points regularly. The Red Bulls need to keep winning games and embarking on undefeated streaks before they can fulfill their potential of stepping up to the level of Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy. The beauty of RSL, combined with resilience such as what FC Dallas showed last year, would make New York the best team in MLS.

The Red Bulls travel to rivals DC United tonight. The four-time MLS Cup champions have had a mixed start to the season, recording some impressive wins but also looking eerily similar to last year's rock-bottom no-hopers at times. Charlie Davies has scored five times despite only starting once, and Rafa and Tim are going to have to be on top form to stop him, Josh Wolff and Chris Pontius from notching at RFK. I hope Tainio can neutralise the impact of Dax McCarty, and Henry, Rodgers, De Rosario and Dane should destroy a poor United defence.

I've predicted defeat, because I've been wrong with every Red Bulls guess this year. Hopefully reverse psychology works, because we simply must beat this game. We've already lost bragging rights to the nearby Philly, so to be defeated by United would be too hard to take. If New York win a second consecutive game, we'll be on our way to proving we're a force to be reckoned with. A loss would further suggest we're inconsistent pretenders. So much at stake tonight.

In one final note, it was reported last week that New York Red Bulls have been invited to play in the Emirates Cup this summer. The tournament is held at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, and in the past has hosted Inter Milan, AC Milan and Real Madrid. No further details or official confirmation has emerged, but everything I've read suggests it's likely to happen. While I don't live near the capital these days, it would only be a few hours drive. You just try keeping me away from North London if the Red Bulls visit in July!

Oh, one final, final note - a big thank you to The Viper's Nest's very own Matt Conroy, AKA Who Shot Sam, who kindly sent me and my newly-converted NY-supporting girlfriend a parcel full of of cool Red Bulls items. You can check out the photo of adorned in the gear below, but for now I'll bid you farewell until the next time!

If beauty was the deciding factor, I should have been the one wearing the mask.
(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).

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