Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BRTD: Shield Chances All But Dead, Time to Right the Ship

Red Bulls Are Unlikely to Win One of These Anytime Soon
Now that the Gold Cup, and our exhausting 4-game West Coast road adventure are over, it's time to put on my editorial hat and revive my "Better Red Than Dead" column. Let's take a look at where the Red Bulls sit in the standings and what they would likely need to accomplish to win the 2011 Supporters' Shield.

I took a look at past seasons to get an idea of the typical point total required to win the Supporters' Shield. What I found was that, from 2002 to 2010, the average Supporters' Shield winner accumulated 60% of their total possible points. In a 34-match season, that means 62 points is roughly what it will take to win the Shield.

Currently, the Bulls are on 25 points through 18 matches with a 5-3-10 record. The Red Bulls have claimed 25 out of a possible 54 points, or 46%. To get to 62 points, they'll need to tally 37 more in their remaining 16 matches. I've got some sobering news. That will mean putting up a record like 11-1-4 or 12-3-1 for the remainder of the season. Impossible? No. I'll leave it to you to decide how likely it is.

I'll be rooting for the Shield until it's a mathematical impossibility, but I'm tempering my expectations (slightly) for the remainder of the season. Here are my requests for Erik Solér, Hans Backe, and the Red Bulls.
  • New Goalkeeper. Now. Yesterday. Until we sign a new one, give Alex Horwath a shot. Our other two keepers have relinquished all rights to starting.
  • Joel Lindpere, Captain. I don't mean this as Henry-bashing. After his shaky start, Henry is tied for the lead in the Golden Boot and has been pretty much everything we could ask of him--when he's on the pitch, that is. Too many missed games for my taste. Meanwhile, Joel has been one of the only Red Bulls to voice his displeasure with the team's play, and sometimes seems like the only Red Bull on the pitch with a heart still beating in his chest. Make him the captain. At the very least, give him the armband when Henry is not on the pitch.
  • Substitutions. Please. By the 60th minute, we have no legs. Any cross into the box drifts safely out the other side because no one runs forward to meet it. Are our reserves truly so much worse, so much less trustworthy, than our starters? Really?
  • U.S. Open Cup. As bad as our schedule was in June, things don't really let up in July, with 9 matches, including a trip to England, on the horizon. That said, I support the decision to play the reserves in our quarter-final match at Chicago next week. However, if we win and advance to the semi-finals, I want to see us field a strong team with an eye to win our first legitimate piece of hardware.
  • Win the East. Still well within reach. We field the best team in this conference and we need to pull ahead and put Philly and the rest of the East in our rear-view mirror. Starting tomorrow.
  • The Cup. We want the MLS Cup! The worst part of our season is behind us. If we fix our woes at keeper and regain our focus in the back four, we can hit our stride at the right time. Then, we can look back at the first half of the season and be thankful that we hung on through a tough stretch and positioned ourselves for a strong finish. Everyone will look like geniuses playing for draws in May and June as we push forward, finish well, and run the playoffs.
One thing is for sure. Whether your goal is the Cup, the Shield, or the East, the way begins with two home wins this week against Toronto FC and their douchy fans, and DC Scum and everything associated with them. 6 points, nothing less.
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