Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Settling Up

Loyal readers of my blog might remember the friendly wager I offered to D of the terrific DC United fan blog The DCenters early this MLS season, when the Red Bulls looked unbeatable. The bet was simple. If New York finished above DC in the standings, D would wear a Red Bulls shirt to a DC match & post the photo. If slow-starting United finished above New York, I'd reciprocate. By now you should know how the season ended, and so the following should be no surprise.

Here, ESC member and all-around good guy Joe Tiernan shows me the love after I appeared at Saturday's Giants Stadium tailgate in Scum regalia. Not only do I obviously need to get going with the crunches already, but you clearly won't catch me in the black again. Nevertheless, a bet is a bet. Thanks to Corey Vezina for snapping the pic, then wisely telling me to cover up before the "Benedict Arnold" and "WTF" chants started.

Here's to a DC-NY Eastern final next Thursday. Will United hold up its end tonight at home?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Red Bulls Preview: Playoff Game #1 vs. Revs

It's tough to write your playoff preview on Friday afternoon, as everyone in the socca blogosphere and all the main-stream guys have already made their picks. Ne'ertheless, here's what to expect tomorrow when New York and NewEngland meet in the MLS Eastern Conference semis:

Much has been written about the lack of playoff success by New York over the last dozen years. The team is trying to avoid its fifth-straight first-round playoff exit, and win a series for only the second time in franchise history. The Revs has turned their franchise around over their 12 years in the league. From 1996-2001, New England qualified for postseason play only once. Since 2002, however, the Revs have made the playoffs every year, and have played in three MLS Cup finals. They've yet to taste the champagne, but have become one of MLS' most consistent winning teams. Of course, history is history.

Here are the clubs' last five results:
New York: DDLWD
New England: DWLLD

Here's a line-by-line look at what to expect tomorrow:
The Revolution forwards vs. the New York defense:
Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman vs. Hunter Freeman, Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, and Dave van den Bergh (and Ron Waterreus). All the ink this year in MLS has been about Luciano Emilio and Juan Pablo Angel, but Twellman had yet another solid season for the Revs, notching 16 goals in 26 appearances. Noonan has a reputation as a Metro-killer, and had 7 tallies of his own in the regular season. Christman off the bench is dangerous. New York's defense has been an adventure since the summer, and the soon-to-be-retired Wattereus offers little confidence in net. Dave van den Bergh can push the ball up the field quickly, but the key for NY is to contain Twellman, and handle the rest that the Revs serve up. Advantage: New England

The Red Bulls' attackers vs. the New England defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Avery John, Michael Parkhurst, and Jay Heaps (and Matt Reis). It's no surprise that as JPA goes in this series, so will the Red Bulls. While Angel will get the most attention from the NE defense, Jozy Altidore has the skills the breakdown opponents one-on-one and can be the difference-maker. New England waited until the end of the regular season before letting its usually strong defense droop. The Revs allowed seven goals in its last three matches and two+ goals in seven of its last eight. That letdown may continue. Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dane Richards. Claudio Reyna, Seth Stammler, and Dema Kovalenko vs. Khano Smith, Jeff Larentowicz, Steve Ralston, Sharie Joseph, and Wells Thompson. It's common knowledge that New York played better without Claudio Reyna on the field this year than when Captain America was ailing, but it's in these types of big matches that Reyna's calming influence will serve the Red Bulls well. Richards and Kovalenko add speed and opportunism on the flanks, but the name you don't see, Clint Mathis, will be a key late sub. New England's midfield in led by the league's all-time assist leader in Ralston (14 this year), and big, skilled Shalrie Joseph (4g, 5a). These two New England stalwarts won't be rattled should the Revs go down early, as the pair were a part the three-goal playoff comeback against NY in 2005. Slight Advantage: New England

The Coaches:
Both Steve Nicol and Bruce Arena have coached and won in the MLS playoffs, though Arena has yet to win with his NY crew. Slight Advantage: New England

With DC dropping their first leg match at Chicago last night, both clubs are eyeing home dates for the Eastern final. Though they didn't beat NE this year (0-2-1), New York can take solace in their strong play against the Revs this regular season. A rainy forecast will keep the crowd small, and the Revs usually bring a large and loud traveling contingent. Slight Advantage: New York

New York will gladly take the same 1-0 result they grabbed in the clubs'
2005 first-leg playoff match. With a energized duo up top, New York does even better this time out. Goals by JPA and Jozy give the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead heading to New England on November 3rd.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Finishing Smartly & Questioning the Iceman

Congrats to the Red Bulls for finishing up the regular season last night by taking a point on the road in a 1-1 draw at the HDC vs. the Gals. Jozy Altidore hit his ninth goal of the season with a snap header a minute after LA's Troy Roberts put the Galaxy in front with a header of his own.

For my money, the best part about last night's match was that the squad escaped injury, while holding MLS' hottest side from winning their sixth match in a row. New York finishes the season at 12-11-7, good enough for sixth place among MLS' 13 teams. The 43 points did mark New York's third-best finish in twelve MLS seasons, behind the Eastern Conference champion season of 2000 (54 pts.) and 2005's 47-point campaign.

Will NY's mini-spurt of decent play (1-0-1) generate any momentum into the playoff opener vs. New England next Saturday in the swamp? We'll see.

Ice Ice, Baby?
Scaryice, of Climbing the Ladder fame, is a one-man MLS content machine. His blog is full of amazing and insightful analysis of MLS stats. He creates weekly highlight videos of every goal scored in the league each week, and for the second straight season, he's created a "Top 10 Goals" for each team. Here's his 2007 Red Bulls collection:

Love the work, but not all of the choices. For my money, two terrific and meaningful goals were omitted, and both were scored in the epic 5-4 win over LA on August 18th at the Swamp.

First, is Juan Pablo Angel's pin-point free kick to open the scoring... and second is Clint Mathis' laser volley in first-half injury time (Find video of both here under 8/18). Not only did Mathis' strike knot the score at two, but the goal put Cleetus at the top of the all-time NY scoring list. C'mon Ice!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You say Edu, I say Adu

MLS Rookie of the Year candidate and TFC midfielder Maurice Edu cracked coach Bob Bradley's lineup for today's US friendly match vs. Switzerland at St. Jakob's park in Basel. (FSC, 2:30p et).

The complete lineup:


A 4-5-1 on the road in Europe, where Bradley's boys will attempt to end a five-match losing streak. The Bench: Guzan, Califf, Pearce, DeMerit, Szetela, Adu, Findley. Will we see Edu and Adu on the field at the same time? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In the 77th minute of a scoreless match, Adu was subbed on, making a Edu-Adu US midfield a reality! Can the two youngsters deliver a goal? We'll see!

FINAL UPDATE: While not affecting the play, both Edu and Adu were on the field when Michael Bradley scored his first-ever national-team goal in the 87th minute, giving the US a 1-0 victory on European soil! Well done!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rev'd Up for the Playoffs

Three points in a match! How novel! The Red Bulls' take down of KC on Saturday night sewed up third place in the East with a match to play. Considering the squad clinched berths in the seasons' final match in 2005 and 2006, this year's finish could be considered a step in the right direction. Just a step, though.

Juan Pablo Angel continues to amaze, as the Colombian notched goals 18 and 19 in the victory, setting up a first-round playoff tie with second-place New England. Series matches are Oct. 27 at the Swamp, and Nov. 3rd at the Big Razor. The Revs have lost their air of invincibility of late, dropping their last two matches v. Chicago and at Columbus.

Does New York have a reason to be optimistic? New England did own the Red Bulls this year with a 2-0-1 record over their I-95 rivals, though each victory was only by a single goal. The Red Bulls and Revs have met twice in playoff history; in 2003 when NE eliminated NY with a 3-1 aggregate score win, and 2005, where New York took a 2-0 agg. lead at New England in the second leg, only to blow the series by allowing three scores in the final 23 minutes. Currently the Red Bulls are on a seven-match losing streak at Gillette and haven't won in Foxboro since June 29, 2002 when Mamadou Diallo (!) and Mark Lisi led the way in a 2-0 win.

I'll have a full playoff preview after the regular season ends on Sunday. With one week to go, Supporters' Shield champion DC United can face either KC, Chicago, Colorado or LA in its first-round series as of today. Viva mediocrity! I mean... parity!

Friday, October 05, 2007


The Red Bulls took another step on the the club's well-worn road to mediocrity with a 2-1 loss at TFC last night, snapping the Canadian Club's 12-match losing streak. NY defender Chris Leitch's own goal allowed Toronto to record two tallies in a match for the first time since July 8th vs. league "powerhouse" RSL.

New York let in 2+ goals for the fifth straight match. The Red Bulls are 1-4-3 in their last eight games, providing zero confidence that they'll advance in the playoffs. Only the dundering Kansas City Wizards (1-4-1 in last 6) and awful Columbus Crew (1-5-3 in last 9) have kept NY from being overtaken in the standings.

The Red Bulls finish up with KC and a resurgent LA squad. At this point, the team needs to be put down quietly and retooled (yet again!) for '08. With the baseball playoffs, NFL, and NHL in full swing, only the small crowd of RBNY faithful fans will notice the team's season mercifully end in four weeks' time. Sigh.