Sunday, July 22, 2012

Red Bulls DOOP on Philly, Go Top of the East

David Banner... uh... Kenny Cooper Leads RBNY to Victory
On a beautiful mid-summer afternoon at the Cathedral of Football, the New York Red Bulls got goals on either side of halftime from Kenny Cooper and defeated their closest geographical rivals - Philadelphia Union - by a 2-0 scoreline. The final wasn't really indicative of the number of chances created in what was a pretty thrilling, high-tempo match that featured opportunities for both sides and lots of good attacking play. The Red Bulls had multiple chances to salt the game away late, while the Union may have been right in arguing that Antoine Hoppenot's disallowed goal, well into second half injury time, should have stood.

Cooper, who hadn't recorded a goal or assist for RBNY since the May home draw against Chivas USA, broke his two month drought in the 43rd minute thanks to a curling, inch-perfect cross by Connor Lade, who is rapidly emerging as the Red Bulls' second contender for Rookie of the Year consideration, alongside Ryan Meara. With Sébastien Le Toux facing his former team for the first time as a Red Bull, one might have expected him to play a larger role in the game's outcome. In the end, though Le Toux had some good chances, combined well with his teammates, and was involved in Cooper's second, he also missed a first half sitter just 20 minutes in. It was the trio of Cooper, Lade and Dax McCarty that did most of the damage on the day.

The Red Bulls came out the stronger of the two teams after the break. Following a Carlos Valdés turnover and a pass from Le Toux to Lade, the ball was played back to Henry, who looped a cross directly on the head of Cooper, who - towering between two defenders - only had to nod the ball past a helpless Zac MacMath. From there on, New York was well in control of the match, and continued to look dangerous going forward, even if there was no end product.

The one downside of an otherwise glorious day at Red Bull Arena was the first half hamstring injury suffered by Brandon Barklage, who has been a bit of a revelation at right back. Pushed into service in place of Barklage, Jonathan Borrajo entered the game in the 16th minute and acquitted himself well. It's become apparent that RBNY now enjoys better depth than it has at any other point during the Solér/Backe regime. Despite missing key players to injury, the team has continued rolling along, with a few bumps here and there. Smart additions like Borrajo, Gaudette, Barklage are a big reason why, as are once unheralded youngsters like Lade and Meara.

Even the controversial Dax McCarty for Dwayne DeRosario trade, for which Solér and Backe were roundly ridiculed, isn't looking quite so bad in retrospect. The Red Bulls now have one of the league's pre-eminent defensive midfielders in McCarty - a player with a number of good years ahead of him. DeRosario probably isn't retiring in the next year or two, but his meter is starting to run down, and his production this season is far below what he provided DC United in 2011. (Yes, I'm tempting fate.)

With the All-Star game on Wednesday followed by yet another two game road trip - this time to Montreal and Houston - there's no real let up in the schedule for the Red Bulls. But the ridiculous three games in a week homestand could not have gone much better. Seven points from nine is a great return, and even the points the Red Bulls dropped last Sunday against Seattle were thankfully not against a conference rival.

It will be interesting to see if the Red Bulls' front office makes another big move before the transfer window closes. The third designated player speculation continues to fly around. On Saturday, at least, RBNY made it clear that even without a new high-profile addition, they will be a force to be reckoned with from now until November.
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