Thursday, May 17, 2012

SUB WATCH: WEEK 11 & A Look Ahead

The SUB WATCH Periscope Reveals All!
What’s that haunting sound? Could it be the cries of the mighty whale, echoing throughout the deep? NO! It is the keening of the multitudes, forced to go yet another week—a two-game week at that(!)— without their beloved SUB WATCH! Fear not, loyal readers, for today the authoritative source on Red Bull New York substitutions returns with not just a recap of the past THREE games, but also a special outlook on the remaining 2/3 of the MLS 2012 season (give or take). Remember that any wagering is at your own risk!

Recap: Los Angeles
The Red Bulls survived the den of iniquity that is the Home Depot center with the help of just two subs: Backe’s fave Mehdi Ballouchy puzzlingly subbed out for the consistently confounding Victor Palsson at 77’ and Juan Agudelo making his triumphant X return on 82’. Agudelo’s appearance marked the beginning of a disturbing trend that threatened SUB WATCH’s prediction of more game time for Arteaga.

Recap: Houston
In front of an early evening crowd of several dozen supporters, Backe used all 3 sub slots for the first time since the woeful DC game.  Agudelo came on at half in an effort to add some more punch to the attack after KFC’s flukey goal on a bad Houston back pass, followed by the triumphant return of Roy Miller at 87’ and (whew!) Jhonny Arteaga at 89’.

Recap: Philthy
In an alternately thrilling and infuriating performance, Backe only used two subs after the Bimbos went down a man. Again, Only Juan came on for Mehdi and—much to the fans’ concern, Victor Palsson, came on for a struggling Ruthven at 64’, proving his value with an immediate handball.
So, what do the sub stats tell us about what has happened this year, how far we’ve come from last year and, most importantly, what the rest of the season may hold? Here’s some observations from the first 11 games.
1-Ballouchy Breaking ThroughWhatever your personal opinion (I feel he’s a candidate for sainthood), there’s no denying the transformation of Mehdi’s role on the team. Still the most frequent name on SUB WATCH, Mehdi moved from the “player on” to the “player off” column after game 5 and hasn’t looked back. While entrenched in the starting his consistent subbing shows that Mehdi doesn’t enjoy Backe’s full faith the way he did last season. Either way, you can bank on him being an integral part of the Red Bulls’ subbing strategy. BALLOUCHY=BUY

2-Palsson Hanging On
As noted above, Icelandic midfielder Victor Palsson has been less than stellar, to say the least. From inexcusable giveaways to high-flying crosses, Palsson is a fan’s nightmare. That said, his continued sub action has him shaping up as the 2012 version of Mehdi Ballouchy. If Mehdi is any guide, Palsson will show just enough positives to keep getting him playing time and in 2 years he’ll show surprising skill and competence. Keep an eye out for the inevitable Twitter parody account. PALSSON=BUY

3-Backe Gets Aggressive
If there’s one thing that RBNY fans agree on, it’s that Hans Backe absolutely HATES to make substitutions. We’re seeing a very different approach this year. The over/under minute for substitutions currently stands at a season low of 65.3’--far below last year’s 73.3’ mark. As the team gets healthy, we do expect this number to rise. AVERAGE SUB TIME 65.3’=OVER  In addition, Backe is more willing to make tactical subs early. The earliest second-half (i.e. not halftime) was at 54’ against Philly. It would be surprising for this number to go down, but it’s a great indicator of Backe’s mindset.  NON-HALFTIME LOW 54’=OVER

4-Everybody in the Pool!
But it’s not just earlier subs, it’s also using more of them. In 2011, Backe used 1.94 subs per game. This year, he’s using 2.36 subs per game--greater than a 20 percent increase. There’s a good chance this could still go up, especially if the team continues to perform and Backe wants to save starters for the stretch run and (fingers crossed) the playoffs. SUBS PER GAME 2.36=OVER  This also puts the Red Bulls on pace for 80.4 subs on the season, ahead of last year's 66 (over course, there's more games this year as well). This is a bit of a leap, but I really think Backe has it in him: TOTAL SUBS 80=OVER

5-Youth Movement
While injuries have forced his hand, it’s refreshing to see younger players get significant sub time. Barklage, Lade and Arteaga have each made sub appearances. SUB WATCH expects that the performance of the former two in the starting lineup--along with Tyler Ruthven--will make Backe more likely to use them as subs. The big surprise may be Arteaga. With today’s announcement of Agudelo’s departure, Jhonny looks like the first choice sub at striker.  Conspicuous in his absence is Cory Hertzog. We would not be shocked to see Cory follow Juan out the door without a single SUB WATCH appearance in 2012. ARTEAGA= BUY

6-Sub Star 2012
With Mehdi Ballouchy starting more often than not and super sub Juan Agudelo departing the team, who is on track to be the standout of the Red Bulls’ 2012 sub brigade? With the three ring circus the Red Bulls lineups have become, it’s anybody’s guess at this point. In the back line, with the addition of heath Pearce and the quality play from Brandon Barklage and Lade, Solli, Keel, Miller and now Tyler Ruthven could all see significant sub action. In midfield, will Rafa be able to play a full 90’? When Tainio heals, will he make the starting XI? Up front, can Copper stay healthy and will Backe continue to look to Arteaga for a late spark? The honor is up for grabs. FIELD=BUY

Hope you enjoyed this ⅓ season recap. Now, it’s off to Montreal. See you next time here at SUB WATCH!  DIVE, DIVE! AWOOGA! AWOOGA!

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