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The start of something big, rivalry-wise?

Posted on 23 April 2010 by ASN Staff

The New York Red Bulls will host Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena two of the next four days. If that’s not the ideal way to kick off a rivalry, it’s hard to imagine what is.

The first match, April 24, will be an MLS regular season encounter. The second a U.S. Open Cup play-in game. The stakes are great in both. The Union have started the season inauspiciously, losing two of their first three games. Their one victory came over DC United, who would probably lose to most college teams these days. The Red Bulls have won three of four, but have been very lucky to win at least two of those matches.

New York’s lineup will be different in at least one way from the one that started the last game, a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas. Macoumba Kandji, who broke his toe in practice this week, is out for at least two months. Who starts in his place remains an open question. The most likely alternative bandied about this week is Brian Nielsen, the team’s newest acquisition who is in the area and practiced with the team for the first time Friday. Expect Nielsen to start at left midfield. Carl Robinson should start for Seth Stammler if healthy. The rest of the lineup is unlikely to change.

Peter Nowak’s men have been lethargic in their two away games, both losses. Lethargic, that is, in everything but their ability to commit fouls. Union players were sent off in both games; rookie Toni Stahl in the season opener at Seattle and captain Danny Califf in last week’s loss at Toronto FC. Will the streak continue at Red Bull Arena? If it does the expansion side will make what is already a tough job even tougher.

That said, the Union are certainly good for an upset. With Alejandro Moreno and Sebastien Le Toux the team has a pair of first-rate (by MLS standards) strikers who could cause the Red Bulls defense fits. If Jeremy Hall starts at right back again, where he will be up against Le Toux, it might not be long before Bouna Condoul is fishing the ball out of the home team’s net.

Of course the same holds true (probably more so) on the other side of the pitch. Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz has made Bouna Condoul look like Lev Yashin. Philadelphia has given up exactly two goals each game. If they do that tomorrow, they’re likely to lose. The Red Bulls have only given up one goal at Red Bull Arena this season. If Juan Pablo Angel continues his resurgent form after a slow start and if he can start to click with Salou Ibrahim then it will be a very one-sided affair. Joel Lindpere should have a field day with Philadelphia’s weak defensive midfield. If a Union player is sent off early again it could get really ugly. Of course that would be the preferred way for Red Bulls fans to kick off the rivalry.

Speaking of rivalries, Philadelphia or Boston are the main out-of-town rivals of New York sports teams. This makes the Red Bulls’ rivalry with DC United unique among area franchises. But nobody can argue it isn’t genuine; the animosity goes back to the league’s very first season and has been the fiercest in MLS most of the last 14 years. It’s hard to imagine this subsiding just because there is a closer MLS franchise or because DC United is having a horrible season. Nevertheless, the rivalry with Philadelphia should develop into something fierce. We should idea of how fierce at the end of the weekend. But what do you think of the burgeoning rivalry with Philly? Vote in the poll below and defend your choice in the comment area.

[polldaddy poll=3099750]

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Who will start for Ubi at left mid? (updated)

Posted on 15 April 2010 by ASN Staff

Sinisa Ubiparipovic ©Scott Marsh/ASN

The assumption here is that Sinisa Ubiparipovic will not start at the position himself when the New York Red Bulls face FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night. It’s a shaky assumption too; all we have to go by is the fact that Ubiparipovic started for the reserves in their 3-0 win over St. John’s. Plus, Hans Backe has demonstrated that unlike his predecessor he is not one to make lineup changes on a whim.

Still, there are reasons to believe Ubi’s days as a starter are numbered. And we’re not just talking about his lackluster play against Chivas USA last week. The first is Salou Ibrahim, who is now available to start after getting his first taste of MLS action as a second half substitute. (Having said that, Ibrahim also played in the reserves match, which makes the already shaky assumption about Sinisa about moot, But let’s carry on because there are still signs this is where things are going).

Sinisa’s role on the team is mainly to plug holes. With Carl Robinson and Seth Stammler injured and Danleigh Borman not doing much in his limited audition at left midfield, there have been several of these in the early going.

Update: Carl Robinson reports via Twitter that he completed his first full training session on Thursday. If he is able to go it lessens the likelihood of Ubi baing in the starting lineup.

Carl Robinson is still listed as questionable and Stammler had a poor showing at Chivas. But with Salou Ibrahim expected to move into the starting lineup it makes Macoumba Kandji available for left midfield duty. This is not Kandji’s natural position (then again, what is?) but he showed promise in the role against Chivas and Backe told us he viewed Kandji as “an option as a wide left player.”

Plus, let’s face it: This team needs players who can create chances on the wings. Ubiparipovic, for all his hard work and solid skills as a defensive midfielder, does not seem able. Neither does Dane RIchards at right mid, though that is an entirely different story. Help is on the way, in the form of Brian Nielsen, but until he shows up it will remain a position by committee. Right now, Kandji is the man for the job.

But that’s just our view. What’s yours? Vote in the poll on who the team should start at left mid vs. Dallas.

[polldaddy poll=3059811]

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Question of the week: Do you start Salou Ibrahim?

Posted on 08 April 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

(The assumption here is that his name is in fact Salou Ibrahim and not Ibrahim Salou, as previously noted.)

Salou Ibrahim in the Red Bull Arena grand opener ©Scott Marsh/ASN

As you’ve probably heard by now the New York Red Bulls newest acquisition has received his visa and is ready to play for the team in an official match. He previously appeared in the Red Bull Arena grand opening match against Santos and the exhibition against Army (speaking of which, the Cadets are the only team to score against New York since the start of the regular season).

Saturday afternoon’s game at Chivas will be the first time that Salou/Ibrahim, Juan Pablo Angel and Macoumba Kandji are fit and available to start. Which means one is either going to need to start on the bench or play out of position. Kandji has seen spot duty at left midfield but with him seeming to find his comfort zone (not to mention scoring the winning goal) in the Seattle Sounders game, does Hans Backe really want to go there? Angel and Salou will not play anywhere but forward. Moving them would be downright Osorioan and those days are (thankfully) in the past. Speaking of which, don’t expect Backe to go with three strikers either. He’s married to the 4-4-2 for the immediate future.

Anyway, have your say on whether Salou/Ibrahim should start the match by voting in this poll:

[polldaddy poll=3024678]

Other things to look out for:
What’s going on with Carl Robinson? Is he healthy and eligible to play? He didn’t make the trip to Seattle but was also absent from the exhibition match against Rutgers, which implies he is not yet recovered from his knee injury.

Will Hans Backe even be healthy enough to make another cross country trip and coach the team?

If Kandji does start at left midfield, where does that leave Sinisa Ubiparipovic? Would he move into the center midfield spot occupied by Seth Stammler in Seattle?

Who travels with the team this week? Last week’s subs were Andrew Boyens, Austin da Luz, Juan Agudelo and Tony Tchani (and obviously Greg Sutton, the only other goalkeeper in the squad). As great as it is to see da Luz on this list, wouldn’t Carlos Mendes or Luke Sassano be better choices? Both are more versatile and can add late game relief at the defensive positions. Speaking of which…

Will Backe or Richie Williams use all three subs for the first time this season? (I have a full rant on this in the upcoming Seeing Red! episode. Stay tuned for that).

Chivas have not looked good at all in the first two games of the season, losses to the Colorado Rapids and the LA Galaxy in the SuperClasico. Their attacking game in particular is very weak. The new coach, Martin Vasquez, was expecting great things from Sacha Kljestan, who does not appear to have what it takes to lead this team–at least not yet. That may develop over the course of the season. It’s not like Kljestan will be traveling with the national team or anything.

That was harsh. But probably also true at this point.

Bottom line with Chivas: The Goats have their backs to the wall after an 0-2 start. They don’t want to go 0-3, least of all under a new head coach. Expect Vasquez to pull out every motivational tool in his arsenal (and then some) to get the team amped for this game. But ultimately, he just doesn’t have enough firepower in his arsenal. The Red Bulls’ defense has looked vulnerable and we do not expect the clean sheet to last. Neither will the winning streak. But the unbeaten streak will.

ASN prediction: Chivas USA 2, RBNY 2

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(Updated) preview and projected starting lineup for Week 2 vs Sounders

Posted on 02 April 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

The Week 1 win over Chicago, though not without its flaws, was nice from a results standpoint. Very nice, even, considering New York had not defeated the Fire since the Bush administration. Tomorrow night at Seattle’s Qwest Field the Red Bulls can accomplish something else they haven’t done since a Republican inhabited the White House–win on the road.

It will not be an easy task. With its plastic pitch and raucous 35,000-odd crowd, Qwest Field is the toughest away match the Red Bulls face this year. On top of everything else, New York is still short-handed. Its best player, Juan Pablo Angel, may be fit on paper, but anybody who saw him against Chicago knows this isn’t the same guy who scored 73 goals in his first three seasons with the club. On this week’s Seeing Red! podcast (yeah that’s a shameless plug. Deal with it) I argued that Angel should be withheld from the lineup altogether. The risk of (further) injury is simply too great and the potential upside too small given that Angel is clearly not at his best and this is a game the Red Bulls are expected to lose anyway.

Ibrahim Salou is still awaiting his working papers and is not expected to be an option. Macoumba Kandji, who started alongside Angel last week, has not impressed either. So who to play up top? I’m told that Juan Agudelo has been seeing time with the first team in practice this week. Expect him to get his first MLS start at Qwest Field. Barring a major surprise Kandji will start at the other forward spot, even though he probably doesn’t deserve to. Of course Angel could go as well. But unless he is really 100% fit, the Colombian should sit this one out for the good of the team. With Carl Robinson expected to return the rest of the starting lineup will be identical to what it was in the Red Bull Arena grand opening game against Santos:

Update: Carl Robinson did not travel with the team and is ruled out of the Seattle match. Danleigh Borman probably did enough to get another start, though we’d still much rather see Austin da Luz. Sinisa Ubiparipovic will take Robinson’s spot as holding midfielder.

——–Kandji——–Agudelo——–
Borman–Lindpere–Ubiparipovic–Richards
Miller——Ream——-Petke——–Hall
————–Condoul—————-

Dane Richards doesn’t deserve to start either after his performance against Chicago, but what ready-made alternatives does Hans Backe have at right mid? The obvious player to spell Richards, Matthew Mbuta, was jettisoned in the offseason. Luke Sassano, Tony Tchani and perhaps even Seth Stammler are options, but all lack the pace sought by Backe for that position. Trialist Damani Ralph saw time at right mid in the exhibition match against Army and Irving Garcia appears to have popped up there as well (judging by our photo gallery); are either of them perhaps being groomed to replace Richards? Don’t expect a move to happen right away–or at all, even. Richards appears to be the choice for right midfield and he will receive every opportunity to show he deserves the spot. My mind may be made up on Richards (again, defer to my Seeing Red! comments) but Backe does not agree with me (give him a few more games).

For Seattle, the big question is whether Freddie Ljungberg is fit. The Swedish midfielder picked up a knock in the Sounders’ season opening win over Philadelphia and at the time of this writing was questionable. If Ljungberg can’t go it will obviously be a break for Red Bull. But even then the home side will be favored. With Freddy Montero, Steve Zakuani, Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans, Seattle simply has too much talent at midfield and forward. The Red Bulls defense, which has performed very well to date and carries a clean sheet into the match, will have its hands full with or without Ljungberg. The Miller-Ream-Petke-Hall back four will be put to the test Saturday. How well they withstand the pressure could tell us a lot about the team’s chances this season.

The road winless streak will be snapped at some point this season–perhaps even some point soon; the Red Bulls’ next game is at Chivas USA, who have looked hapless in their first two games of the season. But it won’t happen in Seattle. If New York comes away with a point it will be a major accomplishment. Fans would be wise to adopt this attitude.

Speaking of which, both the Empire Supporters and Garden State Supporters clubs will host viewing parties Saturday night. ESC’s will be at Nevada Smith’s on Third Ave between 11th and 12th streets in Manhattan; GSS’ at MMM Bellos on Market Street in Newark, N.J. Kickoff is at 10:30pm.

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Rate the player ratings

Posted on 29 March 2010 by ASN Staff

We at ASN value readers input greatly. As part of this we are giving you the opportunity to “grade the grades” of the player ratings from Saturday night’s New York Red Bulls victory over the Chicago Fire. The ratings originally ran in the original match report (which by the way comes with a full photo gallery) but are reprinted below, followed by the “grade poll”.

Player ratings

From a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest:

Condoul – 7
The McBride play was bad and very nearly costly but he made good for it in the second half. Venturing out of his goal was never Condoul’s game anyway; he’s essentially a pure shot stopper who is most comfortable (and effective) making acrobatic saves off his line. At that he’s one of the best in the game.

Hall – 7
Pretty much shut the right side of the field down. Had a few nice forays into the attacking zone as well, though he seemed a bit tentative in that area. But that’s fine for now; Hall’s defensive skills are at a premium and he seems far more comfortable at right back than he did last year.

Petke – 8
Didn’t spot any mistakes from this guy. Played with poise and leadership; particularly strong in the air though one or two of those headers might have been better off placed elsewhere. But that’s hard to do in the heat of battle and anyway a minor critique. Appears to be playing a full decade younger than his actual age (34). To think a lot of people had given up on this guy at the end of last year?

Ream – 7

Another strong outing, though we did spot a few mistakes this time out. Was beaten by his man pretty badly on one play in the first half and a pass or two turned into turnovers that were very nearly costly. But otherwise very solid and not just defensively but also as a ball distributor. It really is amazing how this guy dropped so far in the draft.

Miller – 8
Played very well. Was a linchpin for attacks and did well in keeping the ball moving. Solid defensively. May have actually been the best player on the pitch.

Borman – 6.5
Did well at times, especially in the first half. Had some nice passes that led to scoring opportunities. But also turned the ball over several times and many of his runs went nowhere. If he could develop his right foot he’d be a dangerous player, but we’ve been saying this for two years now…

Lindpere – 8

The goal, which ended up as the game winner, was superb. Also had some nice runs and a few quality passes into space. Need to see more of this. As he gets more comfortable with MLS’ style (which by the way seems to suit a physical player like him perfectly) we will.

Ubiparipovic – 7
Another solid game from another player that had been written off by many fans and pundits alike. Has a strong technical game and sees the field very well. In this game his role was more defensive due to Robinson’s injury. If he was a little more aggressive it would surely help the team develop scoring chances.

Richards – 4
Sadly, Dane Richards seems to have relapsed to…Dane Richards. The player from last week’s Santos match (the same guy who blew everybody away in the 2008 postseason) has apparently disappeared again. There were several times when he had space on the wing, but chose to put his head down and try to sprint past his defender. That hasn’t worked since his rookie season and it isn’t going to start working now. Even less excusable was his decision to shoot from a tight angle when Juan Pablo Angel was wide open to his immediate left–this on a play in the second half that would have put the game on ice. This team has plenty of guys who can play right midfield and will gladly do so, and be far better than Richards. Time for Backe to give one of them a chance.

Angel – 4.5
The Colombian striker looked out of sorts. Perhaps he is still feeling the effects of the Julian de Guzman tackle in the preseason. The service was mainly poor but there were two chances from point blank range that Red Bull fans are used to seeing this guy bury. We fear the effects of age are beginning to take their toll.

Kandji – 4.5
Interestingly enough he looked more comfortable after Backe switched him to left midfield. Mac needs to lighten up on the stepovers and backheels and go back to fundamentals. Make runs, move the ball (which we know he has the talent to do well) or simply put his head down and bullrush past defenders. This stuff isn’t working.

[polldaddy poll=2973538]

You may also provide any comments, critiques or criticism of the grades in the field below.

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DC United (away)

Posted on 02 June 2008 by ASN Staff

Wednesday, June 4, 6:30pm. TV: DK, MLSLIVE.tv, Ch. 55, Ch. 43 (Esp).

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