Thursday, July 03, 2008

An Ugly Loss, but Hope for the Future

The Red Bulls crashed out of this year's U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday in ignominious fashion, bowing to a USL-2 club, Crystal Palace Baltimore, by a 2-0 score in Annapolis, MD. New York coach Juan Carlos Osorio sent out a group of mostly reserve-team players to take on the Charm City side, and the amped-up, lower-division boys proved that heart and desire have a decided advantage over a roster of substitutes. Despite playing a man up for nearly an hour, New York's 4-5-1 formation was unable to break through the less-than-vaunted Baltimore defense.

What made the outing even more embarrasing was that fifty of New York's hard-core fans made the 200-mile trek to Annapolis, and got a horrible effort and a worse performance from the Red Bulls for their trouble.

There's a decided lack of connection between the club and its fans, perhaps best highlighted on the official Red Bulls Reader blog comments about the game. At the end of the day, fans want a club that gives maximum effort, even if the results don't come. The Red Bulls, currently averaging 13,500 fans per match, will be playing to even more empty seats unless the on-field effort improves.

Hope is on the way, however. Yesterday the club announced the arrival of two new internationals to the roster, who will join the team when the transfer period opens on the 15th. 31-year old Venezuelan midfielder Jorge Rojas joins the Red Bulls from Union Atletico Maracaibo. Rojas has 82 caps with the vinotinto, making him the second-most capped player in Venezuelan history. Argentine Juan Pietravallo is a 26-year old journeyman midfielder that has played in Greece, Spain, and his native land for clubs like Velez Sarsfield, Gimnasia, Quilmes, and Nueva Chicago. New York is also negotiating with Mexican youth international defender Diego Jimenez.

Of course, Rojas and Pietravallo will need time to adjust to JCO's system, and without the injured Juan Pablo Angel up front, New York's attack will continue to be stunted. However, given that the Red Bulls are a goal differential tie-breaker away from a playoff spot, a late run would certainly propel the team into the post-season. A win at Colorado tomorrow night (9:30p, MSG), would be a great start.

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