Thursday, July 31, 2008

Revs to Meet Houston in SuperLiga Final

For the third time in less than three years, New England and Houston will play for a title. The Revs made the second edition of the SuperLiga Final an all-MLS affair by knocking off Mexico's Atlante, 1-0 at Gillette Stadium last night in the semis.

The Revs' Shalrie Joseph scored the night's only goal with a header off a free kick in the 30th minute. The end of the match showed once again the lack of sportsmanship by the Mexicans, as Atlante instigated a bench-clearing brawl as the final whistle sounded.

New England is 0 for 2 vs. the Dynamo in title matches, losing the last two MLS Cup Finals to Houston, 2-1 last season, and in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in 2006. This time, though, the Revs will benefit from home cooking, as the SuperLiga final will be held in Foxboro on August 5th (8p, Telefutura).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Houston to SuperLiga Final

Congrats to the Dynamo, who knocked off defending SuperLiga champ Pachuca last night, 2-0 at Robertson stadium in Houston. Pat Onstad stood on his head early in the second half, blocking many point-blank scoring opportunities by the Tuzos. Pachuca had an goal called back due to offside in the 60th minute, and former scum Bobby Boswell knocked in a bouncing ball of a corner kick in the 77th to give Houston the lead. The Dynamo's Corey Ashe headed in a magnificent looping ball by Brian Mullan in the 87th to cement the victory.

Houston awaits tonight's second semifinal between New England and Atlante (8p ET, Telefutura) for its opponent in the August 5th final.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #18 at Shakes

Last week, the New York Red Bulls let two points slip away in injury time vs. LA at home. Sunday afternoon, New York will have a golden opportunity to escape last place in the East when they play the West's bottom-feeder, San Jose (3-9-5), at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara (3p, MSG+).

The last time out, the New York offense was invigorated by the addition of midfielder Jorge Rojas, who assisted on both Red Bull goals in 2-2 draw with the Galaxy. Will Rojas continue to click with his new teammates? To beat the Earthquakes and win for the first time in five league matches, New York will have to overcome its own futility on the road (1-5-3) and win away from Giants Stadium for the first time since May 10th.

Position and Recent Form:
New York, 21 pts from 17 matches, 7th East, WTLLT
San Jose, 14 pts from 17 matches, 7th West, TTLTL

Here's a line-by-line look at Sunday's match:

The San Jose forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Ryan Johnson and Scott Sealy vs. Dave van den Bergh, Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Chris Leitch (and Jon Conway). 11 goals in 17 matches won't win you many games, and the Quakes have won three all season. Sealy, recently traded from Kansas City, is a Red Bull killer. Johnson, the all-time scorer in Oregon State history, leads San Jose with three goals this season. New York's D did a decent job shutting down the high-powered LA offense last week... until after the ninetieth mintute. van den Bergh has been the Red Bulls' brightest spot this season with five goals scored. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the Quakes' defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Oscar Etcheverry vs. James Riley, Ryan Cochrane, Jason Hernandez, and Eric Denton (and Joe Cannon). Despite San Jose's offensive woes, the Quakes' defense has kept them in games. In fact, SJ's D has allowed only one goal in the club's last four league outings. As much as Etcheverry tries to keep up, he simply can't match Angel's speed or skill. As a result, San Jose may ignore the Etcheverry threat and double-team JPA and dulling New York's chances. Advantage: San Jose

The Midfields:
Carlos Mendes Luke Sassano, Jorge Rojas, and Seth Stammler, vs. Francisco Lima, Ramiro Corrales, Darren Huckerby, and Ronnie O'Brien. Without the injured Dane Richards, any New York speed advantage on the flanks has been neutralized. The Stammler-Rojas connection will be key to creating opportunites for Angel up top. San Jose's Newcomer Huckerby from England's Norwich may provide a spark as he meshes with his new teammates. Corrales and O'Brien are on the downside of their careers. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
In his first year back in San Jose, Quakes coach Frank Yallop has a free pass as he tries to field a competitive squad. He has a history of success that's among the league's best. New York's Juan Carlos Osorio knows he's tantlizingly close to playoff position and is trying to incorporate his new signings into the squad. All the pressure's on JCO. Advantage: San Jose

The intimate crowd in Buck Shaw will certainly lift the Quakes. New York is trying to create a little momentum in a classic trap game. The Red Bulls face DC, Toronto and Houston next. Advantage: San Jose

Prediction: JCO knows the power of a defense in sync, and San Jose has figured out how to keep the ball out of the net. The Stammler-Rojas-van den Burgh-Angel quartet break down the Quakes' D in a 1-0 New York win.

Poaching Our Young?

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Weinbach looks at European clubs mining the U.S. for youth talent. Interesting point that these elite youth players' sights are firmly on Europe, not MLS.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Better Than A Sharp Stick in the Eye...Barely

Last night's two-two draw with FC Goldenballs provided plenty of excitement and optimism as the New York Red Bulls head in to the All-Star Break, but frankly, the team did plenty to give away two points in a game New York led into injury time.

The debut of Venezulean midfielder Jorge Rojas, who assisted on both New York goals, provided a significant boost to the Red Bulls' offense, as the team scored more than a single goal for the first time in 14 outings in all competitions. Certainly, the Rojas-Angel attacking combo will be critical if New York will make a playoff run.

However, Oscar Etcheverry needs to be put out to pasture sooner rather than later. Numerous times last night, the Colombian recieved the ball 30+ yards from goal, raced up the flank, and passed into the center without once glancing to see if a teammate was nearby for a scoring opportunity. Usually, there wasn't.

Dave van den Bergh got huge marks not only for his massive first-half blast that opened the New York scoring, but his tenacity despite getting repeatedly knocked down by the LA defense.

Angel's goal was a thing of beauty, chipping Cronin from inside the six-yard box to give New York the lead in the 71st minute. Angel's awareness that he was without help and experience in beating the young Galaxy keeper was superb.

Alas, New York's "Curse of Caricola" continued, as the Red Bulls were unable to put the match away despite three excellent scoring opportunities in the second half. In fact, New York was lucky to escape with a single point when LA's Landon Donovan banged a shot off the left post with seconds to play in injury time.

So where to go from here? Newcomer Juan Pietrovallo made his debut as well last night, and with defenders Gabriel Cichero and Diego Jimenez soon to arrive, New York's midseason renovation will be complete. On Sunday, the Red Bulls visit bottom-of-the-table San Jose, before a road matches at DC, Toronto, and Houston that will go a long way towards determining New York's playoff fate. Let's hope the new and current Red Bulls will gel on the road and continue the attacking style displayed Saturday at Giants Stadium.


The hard-core Red Bull fandom protested the lack of effort in the club's July 1st US Open Cup loss to USL-2 squad Crystal Palace Baltimore by hanging the many fan banners in the Empire End of Giants Stadium upside down... the crowd of 46,754 was the largest to watch an MLS match this year... All five MLS matches this week ended in draws.

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.