Friday, April 16, 2010

Red Bulls Preview: Week #4 vs. Steers

After two straight west coast road matches, the Red Bulls return to banks of the Passaic to face an FC Dallas squad that's posted impressive draws against 2009 playoff teams Houston and Columbus.  What Dallas is missing in home support it has in scoring threats Jeff Cunningham, Atiba Harris, and David Ferriera. FCD also has a lot of momentum, winning 5 of 6 to end last season, plus the two draws so far in 2010.  While two goals allowed (only one by the opposition) in three matches is a nice defensive streak, New York needs to find some offense, and soon..  Angel is still looking for his first tally, and the Red Bulls need to develop their attack up the center of the field, not just provide service the wings.  Will New York keep the home mojo going? Let's dig into the two sides and see how they match up:

Record, League Position, and Recent Form:
New York, 6 points from 3 matches, +0 GD, 4th, LWW
FC Dallas, 2 points from 2 matches, +0 GD, 14th, DD

Dallas' front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:
Jeff Cunningham and David Ferriera vs. Roy Miller, Mike Petke, Tim Ream and Jeremy Hall (and Bouna Coundoul). Cunningham scored on a pk last week v the Crew to open his 2010 account, and even at age 33, is always a scoring threat.  Colombian international Ferriera was a majority contributor last season (8g/7a).  Coundoul needs to move past his gaffe at Chivas last week and show the his club that he can be counted on.  Hall remains a liability against speedy attackers like Harris, but Ream and Petke in the middle are solid. Slight Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the Hoops' defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Salou Ibrahim vs. Health Pearce, Ugo Ihemelu, George John, and Jair Benitez (and Kevin Hartman). The JPA goal drought reached three matches last week, and without quality service, will extend into another week.  Angel has yet to get the ball at his feet or front of him to run on, which is what he needs to score. I have Ibrahim getting the nod up front.  The Belgian did well in a substitution role last week.  Hartman still has it, and FCD will pack the back on the road, hoping for a draw.  Advantage: Dallas

The Midfields:
Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards, Mac Kandji, and Seth Stammler vs. Dax McCarty, former Metro Daniel Hernandez, Atiba Harris, and Brek Shea. With new signing Brian Nielsen about to join the club, this may be the last week Richards gets the starting nod.  Lindpere needs to push the attack through the center of the field to be effective. Robinson may be ready to play in D-mid for New York. For Dallas, McCarty has a national-team career ahead of him, and Harris (at 6'3") will put pressure on the Red Bulls' centerbacks. Hernandez gets a warm welcome in his return to NY. Slight Advantage: Dallas

The Coaches:
Hans Backe was publicly critical of his team's effort against Chivas last week.  Until reinforcements come in, Backe has to press his team's need to take home points.  How New York rebounds from last week's loss will be telling.  Schellas Hyndman has "all the players on board" as Buzz Carrick said on this week's podcast. Despite not winning yet in 2010, he has his team playing with confidence Advantage: Dallas

While Red Bull Arena may be loud, it could be a lot more empty than the last home game as Dallas offers little in terms of drawing power.  The weather may play to the Estonian Express' advantage, with a forecast of drizzle and the mid-40s by game time.  Getting the first goal tomorrow night will be key.  If Coundoul allows a soft goal, it may get ugly  Advantage: Push

While NY's offense has been suspect, defending is the club's strength.  Dallas comes in aiming for a point, and with goals by Harris and Lindpere, that's just what they'll get.  A 1-1 draw.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Red Bulls Preview: Game #3 at Goats

Did you have the Red Bulls as undefeated after two matches?  Me neither.  After a fantastic defensive performance at Seattle, New York makes its second West Coast trip in as many weeks to take on a deflated Chivas team (4p ET, MSG) that's come out of the gate flat as a pancake.  The Goats followed up a 0-1 opening day home loss to Colorado with an 0-2 "road" loss at the HDC to the Galaxy.  While the Red Bulls haven't exactly burned the nets down up front, the team's confidence should be sky-high against a club that's yet to score.  Let's take a line-by-line look at tomorrow's match.

Record, League Position, and Recent Form:
Chivas USA, 0 points from 2 matches, -3 GD, t14th, LL
New York, 6 points from 2 matches, +2 GD, 2nd, WW

Chivas' front line vs. the Red Bull's defense:
Maykel Galindo and Justin Braun vs. Roy Miller, Mike Petke, Tim Ream and Jeremy Hall (and Bouna Coundoul). Galindo has seen better days, but Justin Braun has the potential to grow into a quality MLS finisher. Still, they and reserves Chukwudi Chijindu (best name in the league) and Maicon Santos have yet to find the net.  Yes, the Red Bulls will allow goals this season.  However, New York has effectively shut down two quality attacking sides in Chicago and Seattle.  The Chivas front line isn't as strong as those playoff contenders.  Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the Goats' defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Mac Kandji vs. Michael Umana, Michael Trujillo, Ante Jazic, and Jonathan Bornstein (and Dan Kennedy). After another week of healing for JPA, and another week of practice connecting with Joel Lindpere, this may be the week that Angel hits the net.  Kandji's confidence has to be huge after last week's game-winner.  Chivas' defense has allowed goals to Rapids' sniper Omar Cummings and two to a rejuvenated Edson Buddle of the Galaxy.  New York's attackers fit nicely in with this group  Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, and Seth Stammler vs. Sacha Kljestan, Osael Romero, Blair Gavin, and Marcelo Saragosa. Stammler was the man last week in d-mid, cutting out Sounders passes and snuffing scoring opportunities.  Look for Lindpere to generate more offense than last week's match.  Hope for Dane Richards to play like he did against Santos. For Chivas, Kljestan should make the US roster for South Africa as a backup, but there's not enough talent here to effectively control the center of the field.  Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
New York's Hans Backe returns to the sideline quickly after gallbladder surgery.  Backe has his team playing cohesively, and has won a match in league play. Chivas' Martin Vasquez hasn't.  Vasquez needs to get primal to motivate his side, because an 0-3 start (0-2 at home) will turn a long April into a long season. Advantage: New York

A loss, and Chivas will see any promise of a successful 2010 season ebb away.  However, a team disrespected and backed into a corner can be extremely dangerous.  New York, unexpectedly at the top of East after two weeks, may take the foot off the gas a bit knowing there'll be winnable home matches coming up vs. Dallas and Philadelphia. Advantage: Chivas

Prediction: On the week's Seeing Red, I called this match as a 1-1 draw, but breaking it down this way, I can't see Chivas getting a point here.  Angel opens his scoring account, and sub Salou Ibrahim adds another in a 2-nil New York win.

Finally, a thank you from the Red Bulls to the schedule maker.  After this week, NY will have played half of the club's four league matches in the Pacific Time Zone this season.  The third will come on May 8th (at San Jose), the 7th MLS match of the season.  Nice!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Red Bulls Preview: Game #2 at Green Ravers

While New York has to be satisfied with last week's 1-0 home win v Chicago, there's still lots of room for improvement, especially in the midfield. The Red Bulls get DM Robinson back, but on Seattle plastic pitch, will a still-rusty Angel get the start (10:30p Saturday on FSC)? Will he play?  Seattle started the 2010 season with a 2-0 home shutout last week v Philly, but as Steve Clare notes our Seeing Red podcast this week, the Sounders were playing an expansion team that was down a man for most of the match.  They also can do a lot better, but will play without injured underwear model Freddy Ljungberg.  Can New York come away with a point or, even better?  Let's dive in.

Position and Recent Form:
Seattle, 3 pts from 1 match, t4th, W
New York, 3 pts from 1 match, t7th, W

The Seattle forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Fredy Montero and Pat Noonan vs. Roy Miller, Mike Petke, Tim Ream and Jeremy Hall (and Bouna Coundoul). Fredy feasted on the Red Bulls' defense last year, scoring three times in Seattle's win and draw vs New York.  Montero had a goal and an assist last week in the season opener.  Recent signee Pat Noonan is a question mark filling in for Ljungberg, but the MLS veteran is a proven scorer (45 goals all-time) who loves to play the MetroBulls.  The Red Bulls' backline continues to play well, though keeper Coundoul had an adventure or two last week on the way to the shutout of Chicago.  Ream and Petke have been rock-solid in the middle.  Montero's game is on another level, though. Advantage: Seattle

New York's attackers vs. the Sounders' defense:
Juan Agudelo and Mac Kandji vs. Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, and Leo Gonzalez (and Kasey Keller). I'm going to out on a limb and say that Hans Backe will rest "big Juan A" Juan Pablo Angel given his lack of match-fitness and Qwest's artificial turf.  The untested 17-year old rookie "little Juan A" Agudelo will get the nod.  Mac Kandji showed little last week, but Backe needs his veteran presence on the field with the first-timer. Seattle allowed less than a goal per game last season, with the ageless wonder Keller in the net. If New York punches through, it'll be a surprise.  Advantage: Seattle

The Midfields:
Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, and Carl Robinson vs. Roger Levesque, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani . Evans scored the first goal of the MLS season last week, and is a budding star who has already logged time with the US National Team. Alonso is quality, and Zakuani is coming off a 4 goal/4 assist rookie season. For New York, the Estonian Express is the story of the season to date, with goals in his last two outings.  The midfield will be lifted and settled by the inclusion of Robinson, who's put his visa issues behind him.  Richards was off last week for sure, but hopefully his speed on the fake turf will allow him to rise above. Slight Advantage: Seattle

The Coaches:
Sigi Schmid is Sigi Schmid. Bigger than life. Just plain big. Wears scarves. MLS Cup champ with two different teams. Hans Backe has won championships, too, and is still learning MLS. Advantage: Push

Forecast is for a low of 38 degrees and, surprise, showers, just the type of weather that Lindpere likes. Still, Seattle is 8-2-6 all-time in MLS play at Qwest, and nearly 40,000 Sounders loonies and the Soundwave band will generate the best MLS home-field advantage West of Toronto.  If you haven't seen the MLS Gameday 360 video of SEA-PHIL from last week, do so.  The "Seattle!  Sounders!" chant gave me chills. Advantage: Seattle

Prediction: The New York Red Bulls haven't won a regular-season match away from home since a 2-1 win in LA on May 10, 2008.  They will on the road this season, but not tomorrow night.  It's just too tall an order.  I see Sounders goals from Montero and Zakuani in a 2-nil Seattle victory.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Listen Up!

Two audio appearances this week.  First is the ever-growing "Around The League," a weekly whip around MLS with correspondents for every club.  I serve as your humble voice of RBNY.  Next is this week's Seeing Red, where Nat, Dave and I breakdown the Red Bulls' 1-0 win v Chicago, chat up Steve Clare of Seattle's Prost Amerika, and answer listener email.

Give us a try, won't you?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Bulls Preview: Game #1 vs. Fi-yah

After last Saturday's sparkling Red Bull Arena opening match v Santos FC, New Yawk launches into the 2010 MLS season at home v. Chicago.  After a 7-0-3 preseason, can RBNY ride the wave of optimism into a tough opponent that narrowly missed last season's MLS Cup by a missed pk?  No doubt the new soccer management and additions to the Red Bulls' roster has rejuvenated once of the worst clubs in MLS history, but if the coach & GM are "terrified," what does that say for the boys wearing the bulls & sun on their shirts?  Read on as we break down tomorrow night's match (ESPN, 6:55p ET), line-by-line style:

The Chicago forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Collins John & Brian McBride vs. Roy Miller, Mike Petke, Tim Ream and Jeremy Hall (and Bouna Coundoul). Fulham's own Brian McBreak led the 2009 Fire with seven goals, but won't have the legendary Temoc Blanco providing excellent service.  Collins John may just be a breakout star in MLS but the Liberian, who had time in the English and Dutch leagues, may take a while to adjust to the domestic league.  Red Bulls fans have to be overjoyed with the way the back line performed in the preseason, allowing just four goals in ten preseason matches.  Tim Ream looked so composed v. Santos last week that many have named him a favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. Coundoul had many strong saves against Santos. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the Fire defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Mac Kandji vs. Wilman Conde, Kristof Krol, Logan Pause, and Dasan Robinson (and and Andrew Dykstra). So you're a good team, and your keeper played every minute of every match in a very successful 2009.  So what do you do?  You cut him! Chicago will go with untested Andrew Dykstra in the net this season after cutting MLS vet Jon Busch.  No, I don't get it either.  Polish D Krol joins a very good defense that allowed only 1.13 goals per game in 2009. Angel, who is nearly recovered from a horrid tackle by TFC's de Guzman on February 27th, should be able to go at least 45 minutes tomorrow night.  Finally playing on a home grass surface, JPA will certainly be among the league scoring leaders by season's end.  Kandji drew a free kick that led to a goal v. Santos, and set up another with a perfect pass to Richards last week.  Will these two finally mesh? Advantage (if Busch was with Fire): Push.  Advantage (with Dykstra in net): New York

The Midfields:
Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, and Carl Robinson (or Seth Stammler) vs. Justin Mapp, Julio Martinez, Marco Pappa, and John Thorrington. Veterans Mapp, Pappa, and Thorrington know how to maintain possession.  With Blanco (5g, 8a) gone, Guatemalan Pappa (5g, 4a in 2009) will serve as the new midfield engine for the Fire. Winger Martinez joins the club on loan from Mexican 2nd division club Leon.  For New York, Lindpere has already been a massive upgrade over Jorge Rojas.  Richards scored a world-class goal v Santos last week, and if he's fully recovered from the knock he received in the 2nd half, he'll be flying down the right flank once again.  Robinson is currently in Toronto, trying to get his work visa. Viva government bureaucracy! Slight Advantage: Chicago

The Coaches:
Both clubs bring veteran coaches into their first MLS matches.  Swede Hans Backe has certainly won over the NY soccer media with his straight-up style, and the players say they all know their roles on the field with him at the helm.  The Fire's Carlos de los Cobos has coached the Salvadoran National Team as well as Tigres and Club America in Mexico. Advantage: Push

Unlike last week, the temperature should only be in the upper 30's around kickoff.  The match will be a sellout, and the Fire will be bringing over 200 fans to the match.  New York will try to ride the wave of support from last week's fantastic friendly win. The Red Bulls supporters clubs will need to unify their voices across the South Ward to be heard loudly and proudly.  If Chicago scores early, the crowd may be taken out of the match.  Still, hard to imagine NY not getting the advantage at home in front of a national TV audience. Advantage: New York

Prediction: Chicago has been picked by many as an MLS Cup Finalist, though the Fire's key player tomorrow will be the untested Fire G Dykstra.  A shaky start or a soft goal allowed, and the youngster will want to dig a hole & climb on in. The Red Bulls get goals from Angel and late sub Conor Chinn and earn a hard-fought 2-nil victory.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thoughts and Pics from Opening Night at Red Bull Arena

There have been very few "perfect soccer days" in my life.  Gio's bike for Metro v Tampa in '96.  Watching the US beat Mexico in the 2002 WC from Nathan Hale's in lower Manhattan.  The US win over Honduras in Chicago last summer was pretty great.  My first EPL match at Stamford Bridge in November was super.

This past Saturday at Red Bull Arena was perfect.  Perfect weather.  Perfect vibe.  Perfect crowd. Fantastic performance by the Red Bulls, and truly the start of a new era in soccer not just for the NY area but for MLS as well.  The 3-1 pasting of Santos by RBNY won a few converts, sold some season tickets, and announced loudly and proudly that this club and venue are forces to be reckoned with.  The Seeing Red crew talks about opening night here.

Here's are my photos from my "perfect day."

Although this Saturday's Chicago match is nearing a sellout, one small experience stands out about the continuing fan conversion process.  On the walk to RBA, my pal, son and I, in full RB regalia, passed a small girl standing in a Harrison storefront.  She couldn't have been older than nine or ten.  As we passed her, she taunted, "Red Bulls are going to lose."  Over this season, and those to come, RB will hopefully win over the residents of West Hudson. After all, RBNY is their home team now.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Being Ugly

Yet another super-fun appearance on your favorite soccer comedy game show, Winning Ugly, with fellow panelists Brian Zygo and Michael Johnson.  Wonder who wins?