Monday, June 27, 2011

Fire 1 Red Bulls 1: Bouna Blunder Burns the Bulls

Keel and Mendes Make a Final Triumphant Appearance
One win in 10. Sinking in the weak Eastern Conference. Killing itself with mental errors like no other team in MLS. Those are the stark facts after the Red Bulls 1-1 draw Sunday in Chicago. Hans Backe made the right move of starting Bouna Coundoul over Greg Sutton in goal but it still backfired on him spectacularly, as Bouna somehow let a Marco Pappa bouncer get past him for Chicago's second half equalizer. Coundoul's post-game contention that it was simply a matter of a bounce not going his way is laughable. A professional goalkeeper should be able to make a routine save like that 999 times out of 1000. If he can't, he has no business starting for an MLS club.

Yes, this was the Red Bulls' third consecutive road game in less than a week. Yes, there were still players missing from the squad. But there can be no excuses for the kind of uninspired soccer RBNY played in the second half in Bridgeview on Wednesday. If a player such as the visibly exhausted Thierry Henry, who spent the last hour of the game at walking pace, is left on the pitch on a warm Midwest summer afternoon, there should be no surprise when the team lacks energy in the attack. Hans Backe was once again loath to call on his bench, perhaps with Tuesday's US Open Cup game against FCNY in mind. Instead he stuck to his guns and paid the price of two points.

Following the game, RBNY goal scorer Joel Lindpere was asked about the Red Bulls' recent slide and pulled no punches, calling out his teammates for their poor effort and lack of mental fortitude at crunch time. Clearly this current road trip has taken a toll on this team, both mentally and physically. The return of Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream after the USMNT's 4-2 defeat to Mexico will hopefully provide a badly needed spark and get the team over the final hump of the Road Trip from Hell, next weekend in San Jose.

First they will need to hope that the reserve team has enough talent to get past FCNY on Tuesday. Anyone expecting a blow out in favor of the home team may want to check his expectations. In the reserves most recent outing they were pasted 6-1 by Columbus Crew reserves. The fact that Tyler Lassiter and Sacir Hot have been left to pick splinters out of their backside while Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes have been stinking it up should tell you something.

One thing is crystal clear after Sunday's game: the Red Bulls MUST make finding a reliable goalkeeper their top priority, like it or not. Philadelphia Union fans have seen the difference a steady if unspectacular goalkeeper like Faryd Mondragon can make. In a country as blessed with goalkeeping talent as the US, finding a capable #1 should not be a problem. If they need to look overseas then so be it. But for the love of God and the sanity of all Red Bulls fans they must do something and do it soon. Defensive, set piece and goalkeeping blunders will kill this team's chances of attaining their goals this season, if they haven't already.
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