Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Better Display: Red Bulls Sharp Against Galaxy in 2-1 Win

Richards' Speed Gave L.A. a Few Headaches
The New York Red Bulls always seem to play a little better against the Los Angeles Galaxy than they do against the rest of the league, even when there isn't much on the line. Wednesday evening was no exception. Bolstered by the strongest lineup Hans Backe has yet fielded in the Desert Diamond Cup, RBNY got  a pair of nicely worked goals by Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry either side of halftime and then held on for a 2-1 victory over a Galaxy team that was without several regulars, including Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle.The victory, however, wasn't enough to get the Red Bulls to the tournament's final. Instead, they'll play in the third place game on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, while the Galaxy face New England Revolution for the trophy.

Cooper's goal, assisted by the impressive Connor Lade, seemed to surprise Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders as much as it did the announcers, somehow sneaking inside the post just as it looked as though it might go wide. Henry's headed goal, on the other hand, was the least he deserved on a night when he was easily the most impressive player on the pitch. It came from a nicely worked interchange with Dane Richards, who caused L.A. fits with his ability to get behind defenders.

The only real negatives on a night of positives were the departure of Wilman Conde after just about 20 minutes due to a quadriceps issue, and the Red Bulls conceding a second half goal from - what else? - a foolishly conceded set piece, deep into the second half. Otherwise, there was an awful lot to like. Henry clearly benefited from his time with Arsenal and has come back to the Red Bulls as sharp as ever. Cooper, who didn't mesh with Henry just days earlier in the Reto Del Sol match against Pumas, seemed to be reading his strike partner better on Wednesday. That's an encouraging sign, especially if Luke Rodgers fails to get his visa sorted out. Connor Lade looked comfortable in place of Roy Miller, who was away on Costa Rican National Team duty. Given Miller's inconsistent form and RBNY's lack of depth at left back coming into the season, Backe must be pleased to have another good option at the position. Markus Holgersson, who didn't have the strongest of games against Pumas either, was much more assured against L.A. Finally, Ryan Meara enjoyed another solid game between the pipes, and would appear to be the Red Bulls #1 choice as the regular season approaches.

It's likely that we'll see Backe use the final game in Arizona to take one last look at trialists before trimming the roster. But with opening kickoff just ten days away, it was encouraging to see a near first XI performing well together and scoring goals after a bit of a dry spell.
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