Saturday, November 2, 2013

And the Winners Are...

Great Potential Addition to the Red Bulls Trophy Case
With a resounding 5-2 defeat of The Chicago Fire (and probable Antichrist Mike Magee), the Red Bulls captured the Supporters' Shield, marking the first ever real silverware for the club. It has truly been an historic season, but who is really to thank (or blame)? Without further ado, I give you the Viper's Nest 2013 Regular Season Awards:

Team MVP

Matt: For me there are only really two candidates here - Tim Cahill and Luis Robles. Thierry Henry, Dax McCarty and Jamison Olave have also shined at times, but less consistently. Robles has had an amazing season, playing in virtually every game and keeping Ryan Meara firmly glued to the bench. He has made some acrobatic saves and his distribution is miles ahead of most of our former keepers. The only caveat is that he is prone to letting up rebounds (see the Magee goal), and there have been one or two disastrous failures to communicate with defenders. Cahill, meanwhile, has taken the team on his back time and time again, scoring big goals, showing amazing leadership and, crucially, staying positive for a club and fan base that can get down on itself like no other. Plus he made Taylor Twellman look like a fool, and that counts for a lot.

Big Viper: For me, there's only one candidate: Tim Cahill.  After a lackluster half-season last year, Cahill has taken the reins of this team away from Thierry Henry and practically willed RBNY to Supporter's Shield glory.  He's played several games carrying injuries that would have kept those without his brass balls from even dressing.  That he can keep this up for five more games remains to be seen but, in a year and a half here, Cahill has become an undisputed Red Bulls legend. 

Tom: No surprise that we're all in agreement here. As good as Robles has been, you have to give the MVP to Cahill. The way he took on the mantle of team leader has been incredible to watch, and his physical toughness and production on the pitch have shut up any doubting muppets. The man is the genuine article and all RBNY fans should savor his time with the club. I don't believe in god. I believe in Tim Cahill.

Best Newcomer

Matt: Peguy Luyindula and Lloyd Sam have had their moments, as has Fabian Espindola, but I have to give this one to Jamison Olave. A red card and penalty or two aside, he has been a defensive rock and an imposing presence at center back. He's built like a tank but there is some silky skill under that hard exterior. Can't believe RSL cut him loose.

Big Viper: I'm tempted to pick Jamison Olave, but I'm going to go a different route and pick Peguy Luyindula.  As many of you already know, I've been clamoring for a true #10 Creative Midfielder, for years and years now, to give us that extra something that we haven't had since the Amado Guevara years.  For a long time now, it seems that most of our offensive options were long balls and (often aimless ) crosses from the sides.  We've not had that one player in the middle that could put in that magic through ball or chip for our forwards to run onto.  As a result, the talents of one Thierry Henry (and Juan Pablo Angel before him) have been criminally wasted, as he's often had to track back (to the backline even) to retrieve balls and try to create something.  Judging from the evidence provided at the last game alone, we might have found our man and it seems he's been with us all season.  A washout as a forward, missing chance after chance in front of goal, it seems that Peguy's #10 Creative Mid skills rival that of former MLS'er Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama.  Can he keep up the Valderrama impression for 5 more games?  If he can, we're going all the way to MLS Cup glory this year.

Tom: Nice try, Miguel, but this is for the season, not the last few games. Olave is certainly a solid choice, but, just to shake hings up, I'm going to go with Jonny Steele. Steele went from a porn name joke to playing 33 games for RBNY this year, starting 32 of them. Beyond reliability, he has shown some good skill on the ball and provided some exciting goals. He's also helped the team in the MLS tattoo rankings. I think we could see double digit goals from Jonny in 2014.

Biggest Surprise

Matt: Mike Petke. A guy who had no head coaching experience whatsoever just win us our first ever trophy and did it in style. We all love the guy, but let's be honest - his appointment was a desperation move. Luckily it has paid off in spades. I still think he is in his infancy as a tactician, but the guy is just a born leader - the kind of guy you would follow into battle. And that counts for a lot.

Big Viper: Without a doubt, it's been Mike Petke.  Signed as Head Coach after management couldn't get their European candidate of choice, Petke as proven that he's a motivational genius.  I don't think anyone would accuse him of being a master tactician, but making these guys believe that glory is there for the taking is why this team is never out of a game lately.  Petke is responsible for that mentality and, unlike previous MetroBull coaches, he bleeds Taurine.  His legend grew by leaps and bounds this year.

Tom: I'm going to cheat here and pick the duo of Peguy Luyindula and David Carney. My "Peguy Out!" screams from the top of 133 could be heard throughout the stadium after the supposed world-class striker failed time and again to find the back of the net, despite Henry's confidence in him. Maybe 2 years riding the pine was really an early retirement. Why was he starting or first off the bench? Then came the game in Houston. As a late sub, Peguy had a great assist and was excellent on the ball. A month later, we seem to have found our midfield general (all due respect to Dax), if the 34-year old's body can withstand MLS.

With Carney, I didn't even wait to see him on the pitch before calling his signing a failure. Sure, Tim Cahill vouched for him, but what were we to think of an unknown who was cut by Uzbek League team FC Bunyodkor? There have been a couple of brain farts along the way, but Carney has proven to be solid in the back line and an excellent crosser of the ball.

Question Mark

MattEric Alexander. Pele one minute and a pub league player the next. Almost singlehandedly destroyed Montreal and scored another nice goal in the clincher against Chicago, but also goes missing for entire games sometimes. I like him as a bench option, but until he can be more consistent I'm not sure I like him starting.

Big Viper:  Eric Alexander, aka Eric Andrews, is an enigma.  He can look like Christiano Ronaldo one game, only to look like Khano Smith the next.  All I'm asking is 5 more Christiano Ronaldo-like games Mr. Alexander.  Thanks in advance.

Tom: I understand why Alexander (aka EZ Doesn't) is the popular choice, but I'm going to go with the man of the hour, Mike Petke. Yes, Petke has had a first season beyond anything we imagined. But there's no question that it did not follow a straight line. If he gets credit for the Shield, he must also take the blame for some of the worst, most lackluster Red Bull performances in memory. Many folks say that the practice bust-up with Henry (and Thierry's subsequent benching) was the turning point. Maybe. Others say that the team has taken on the tough persona of their head coach. Could be. The reality is, there was a lot of change this season and Petke was definitely a part of it, but exactly what part is hard to say. I look forward to Mike shoving these doubts in my face next season (or better yet, on Dec 7). 

$#!+ List

Matt: This is hard. I might have said Luyindula a few weeks ago, but maybe they've found his position now as a creative mid. Nobody has really stood out as just being flat out awful. So I'll give it to the fans in the midfield seats who never show up. You've got a winning team, so get off your butts and out to the Arena. The fact that I can't select a player for this shows you what kind of season it has been!

Big Viper: No one has been total crap this year, but I'm wondering if that's been a result of Roy Miller being out injured for a long spell?  Just for 5 games - Shut up and sit down Roy.

Tom: I have to go with the RBNY player I love to hate, Bay Leaf, aka Heath Pearce. Here's two things no one has ever said: "Wow! You can really taste the bay leaf!" and "Wow! Pearce is great out there!" Do you realize this guy is the third highest paid Red Bull after Henry and Cahill???!!?? Olave makes $60 grand less, fer chrissakes! In my opinion, he has been virtually invisible since joining the team and was all too easily replaced by better, cheaper options. Hopefully his injury will have Pearce buying bow ties in Dallas. Or maybe Carney can put in a call to Bunyodkor.

So, there you have it, Viper's Nest fans. Agree? Think we're nuts? Sound off below!

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