Monday, April 18, 2011

Will Luke Bring Balance to the Force?

Is Rodgers the Spark Plug RBNY's Engine Was Missing?
Hans Backe's dogged pursuit of Luke Rodgers finally paid dividends on Saturday, when the former Notts County striker bagged an early pair of goals and set up a magnificent third on his way to a Man of the Match performance against San Jose Earthquakes. Rodgers was outstanding, making great runs and working tirelessly. It was the kind of performance the Red Bulls sorely needed after coming up empty in Philadelphia.

There were a lot of eyebrows raised when the Red Bulls first began their pursuit of the diminutive striker last season. When a US work visa was denied because of an existing criminal record and several other run-ins with the law, it looked as if the club might end its interest in him completely. But they stuck by their guns, backed Rodgers through his appeal process and finally got their man over the winter. Once Rodgers arrived, there were still plenty of people willing to call him a bust before he even stepped foot on the pitch.

Of course it would be foolish to expect Rodgers to score - or even play - every week, but if he can continue to put in the kind of hardworking shift we saw on Saturday, he could make the Red Bulls exceptionally difficult to play against and bring balance to the attack. Think about it: between the silky smooth passing and skills of the (hopefully) reborn Thierry Henry, the strength, positioning and pace of Juan Agudelo and the balls-to-the-wall work rate of Luke Rodgers, RBNY has the potential to cause a lot of defenders headaches - assuming that everyone stays healthy.

What's more, whether it was the result of criticism by fans and media or the Luke Rodgers Effect, Thierry Henry looked feistier than he has at any other time since he arrived in New York. He worked his socks off all night, set up Rodgers' second goal when he picked Ramiro Corrales' pocket (yes, Corrales, you still suck) and probably could have scored a hat trick himself, if not for some wayward finishing and Jon Busch. There's already been quite a lot written and said about Henry's profanity-laced celebration in front of the GSS after his emphatic header that made it 3-0, but it's precisely the kind of reaction many fans wanted to see. Yes, dammit, you're Thierry Henry - that's the kind of intensity we want you to bring every week! To his credit, Henry was the first one over to the South Ward at the full time whistle and gave his shirt to Nuno, the GSS capo.  He didn't apologize for his comments and we wouldn't want him to. This is New York - we can take it. We give you shit, you flip us the bird and we love you for it.

Viper will be along soon with his videos and observations from a very windy, soggy evening at Red Bull Arena. For those who braved the monsoon to turn out it has to rank as one of the top five games at the Cathedral since it opened its doors last March.
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