Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Patchwork Red Bulls Roll on to Seattle

Solér: Pulling No Punches
As the Red Bulls prepare for Thursday's nationally televised game against the Sounders at Seattle's newly-christened CenturyLink Field, they face a real dilemma at the forward position. Deprived of Luke Rodgers - the victim of an ongoing plantar fasciitis condition that will keep him out for at least several more games - and the suspended Thierry Henry (more on him below) - it appears that Hans Backe will opt for a Dwayne De Rosario/Dane Richards partnership up top. From a pure talent perspective it's not terrible, but neither player is ideally suited as a striker. What's more, losing both DeRo and Richards in midfield deprives the team of some badly needed creativity in the center of the park. On the other hand, with so few good options available, RBNY has little choice but to roll out a makeshift lineup and hope for the best.

There was never any guarantee that Thierry Henry and his 33 year old legs were going to feature in back to back games on Field Turf (the scourge of Pacific Northwest soccer), but the decision was taken out of Backe's hands after TH14's late sending off in Portland. You can view the Adam Moffat incident here and make up your own mind, but in the judgment of most observers (both Red Bulls fans and neutrals), Ricardo Salazar showing a red card in that instance was harsh in the extreme. Moffat and Henry seemed to have patched over any differences and the clock was winding down to full time. In fact, Portland fans might have a reason to feel more aggrieved about the incident, since they were coasting to three points. If Henry doesn't walk, Rodney Wallace probably doesn't handle the ball and the Red Bulls likely get nothing from the game. The absence of Henry in Seattle is a small price to pay for salvaging a result.

The fact that the Red Bulls were arguably the beneficiaries of the red card hasn't stopped Erik Solér from openly criticizing MLS officiating and Salazar's performance in particular. Solér's statement is unusual in a league where criticism is usually reserved for behind the scenes conversations, and it's just the latest sign that Major League Soccer has a big problem on its hands. Portland manager John Spencer and Kansas City GM Robb Heinemann have also been harshly critical of referees in recent weeks. With far too many matches being decided on the basis of questionable or downright incorrect decisions, a complete overhaul of the refereeing program is badly needed. The league's reaction to Solér's comments will be interesting to see. If he gets fined and reprimanded - the most likely scenario - it's a good bet that nothing will change.

A few more notes:
  • As expected, Teemu Tainio's goal line clearance is up for Save of the Week (vote here). At the moment our favorite Finn is running away with it. If he wins the honor, he will be the second RBNY field player to win this season, which surely must be a first. It may also say something not so flattering about the quality of the Red Bulls' goalkeeping.
  • On Sunday, June 26, the Viking Army Supporters Club will be holding a charity soccer tournament at the Harrison Courts. The event, which gets under way at 8:30AM, will benefit Kick for Nick. Supporters will be able to retire to the Greenroom afterward to view the Chicago Fire-RBNY match.
  • The Red Bulls have tentatively planned to hold a viewing party/BBQ of their own for the Chicago game, at Red Bull Arena. The event is dependent, however, on sufficient supporter sign-ups. With the Viking Army and GSS doing their own viewing parties that day, the RBA event may well be cancelled. We should know for sure later in the week.
 That's it for now. We'll be back with more when the hammer comes down on Erik Solér!
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