Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cross-Atlantic Correspondence - Bulls Battered By Braun

Justin Braun, destroyer of Red Bulls last week

Once again, I must start this latest edition with a grovelling apology - just when I think I've got my schedule under control, it all falls apart and I'm desperately hunting for more minutes in the day to get everything done. I've found a slither of time to talk to you from here in the UK, and I've got plenty to say from recent weeks.

Let's start with a fortnight ago, when the Red Bulls travelled across America to take on Los Angeles Galaxy. It was billed as the headline of the season, the marquee match, the collision of the Major League Soccer giants. It would have been highly disappointing if the game had failed to live up to the hype, but thankfully we were treated to a magnificent spectacle of soccer.

Just four minutes had passed when Dane Richards' slightly wayward pass found Thierry Henry, who jinked around Donovan Ricketts and rolled the ball over the line. New York were ahead, but it wasn't plain sailing. Galaxy absolutely pounded Bouna Coundoul's goal, and somehow our narrow 1-0 lead remained until close to the halfway mark. When Landon Donovan rose to glance in the equaliser with a few minutes until the break, it's hard to say they didn't deserve it.

Despite both teams going for the win in the second-half, the score remained 1-1 and the spoils were deservedly shared. But it was most definitely a game which had it all - disallowed goals, a fiesty feud between Donovan and Luke Rodgers and a stupendously incredibly goal line clearance from Tim Ream.

Well worth waking up at 4am GMT to watch. As a Brit, sometimes it can be hard to catch MLS action. I always make an effort with the Red Bulls of course, staying up an hour or even two later than I really should. 4am, not long before the sun began to rise, was pushing it. But I set my alarm, slept a few hours, jumped of bed to catch the game and resumed sleep as sunlight shone through the windows. A loss would have been hard to take, having gone through that, but I returned to bed satisfied.

Rather than heading back home to prepare for the visit of Chivas USA, New York headed to Canada to take on Montreal Impact in a friendly game. I understand WHY the match was scheduled - Impact are joining the league next year, an Henry-led Red Bulls raised exposure, etc - but it didn't make sense for the Red Bulls. We gained nothing, and lost so much. When we returned to league play a few days later, we looked ill-prepared and tired.

Versus Chivas USA we were like a yo-yo, performances bouncing up and down between wonderful and dreadful. We started poorly and went behind, but the response was good and Henry's goal was well worked. But the hard work was undone as Braun grabbed his second, which was later cancelled out by De Rosario's first for the club from the penalty spot.

The second half promised much, but Braun completed his hat trick with the worst of three poorly conceded goals. The defence, which has served us so well so far this campaign, was all over the place all night. It's fair to say I went to sleep at 3am fuming, upset and frustrated. Sleep did not come easy.

Onto this week, and the Red Bulls have travelled to Houston to take on fellow Eastern Conference side Dynamo. Well, most have; Henry has stayed behind, once again plagued by injury. It's a shame because the Frenchman has really excelled this season and looked better and better each week. His absence does present an opportunity for Juan Agudelo, who will likely be awarded his first start since the 1-0 defeat to Philadelphia Union. The youngster has had to bide his time for a starting berth but in that time he has impressed from the bench, so hopefully given a full run out he can reinvigorate the side.

I'm quite concerned about Luke Rodgers at the moment. He has won plaudits for his efforts this season, earning a reputation for being a pesky character for the opposition to deal with. But where are the goals? I was criticised for questioning Rodgers' performance against Chivas. He never stops running and always wants to be involved, but where are the goals? Three goals so far this season isn't a bad return, but he hasn't scored for several weeks. Worse, it doesn't seem he's creating or finding chances either. I've been converted into a big fan of my fellow Englishman, so I'm hoping he clicks with Agudelo tonight.

Prediction? I fear 2-0 defeat. Losing Henry, plus any lingering low morale and lack of organisation from last week, could mean a difficult 90 minutes tonight. But I'm hoping, with everything crossed, that we can take the three points and retain the lead at the top of the conference.

(Glenn Williams also runs and writes for, a website offering a British perspective of MLS)

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