Tag Archive | "Juan Carlos Osorio"

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Red Bulls blow it, lose to W. Connection to bow out of CCL

Posted on 06 August 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

The New York Red Bulls’ best, last chance to make something of their season went down in flames at Giants Stadium Wednesday night. Despite a positive 2-2 result from the first leg, and even though they took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute of the return leg, the team just couldn’t get it done. Instead, New York pulled one of its typical self destruction acts in the waning minutes of the first half, yielding a pair of goals after falling asleep at the switch. The second goal was undoubtedly the more infuriating of the two, coming as a result of a Kevin Goldthwaite brainfart in stoppage time. The second half saw no goals and the Red Bulls ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 final score (4-3 in aggregate) that sees them exit the CONCACAF Champions League in the preliminary round.

No words can really do justice to this type of performance. In a season marked by bitter disappointment it may suffice to say that the team has once again hit a new low. At least now there is no place further to fall. The MLS playoffs were long ago removed from the equation. The U.S. Open Cup campaign ended before it really began, at the hand of archrivals D.C. United. Now the team’s last vestige of hope, the CONCACAF Champions League, is gone as well. To say a change in leadership is necessary, including the dismissal of not only Juan Carlos Osorio but also Jeff Agoos and ideally Erik Stover, is akin to beating a dead horse. The damage is almost too nauseating to contemplate, especially after the promise of last season’s playoff run and the uncharacteristic tones of optimism in this year’s preseason. Now it’s all over. A half dozen home games remain until the curtain can finally fall on 14 years of tortured history. Will the last one to leave remember to shut the lights?


The following were shot by ASN at the conclusion of Wednesday’s match. More ASN videos can be seen on our YouTube page.

Juan Carlos Osorio’s initial reaction in the postgame press conference:

John Wolyniec gives his thoughts on the game:

Woly addresses the team’s propensity for allowing goals in the last five minutes of a half:

Kevin Goldthwaite, whose gaffe in first half stoppage time ended up costing the Red Bulls the game, does not seem terribly perturbed by it here. He also says the club lacks “leadership” while adding he would hate to see Osorio lose his job. His thoughts on Osorio seem perfectly genuine but see for yourself.

Danny Cepero: “It’s awful. It’s frustrating…feels like we’re in quicksand”

Jeremy Hall is asked if he feels “a change is needed at the top” of the organization:

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Is there any reason to hope the CCL qualifier will be different?

Posted on 29 July 2009 by ASN Staff

There are two ways to take this question:
1. In light of the New York Red Bulls’ pathetic performance these last months, is there any reason to believe the team might be able to mount a challenge against Trinidad and Tobago’s W Connection in its two-legged CONCACAF Champions League qualifier?

2. Should Red Bulls fans really hope for success in the CCL if all it accomplishes is that Juan Carlos Osorio, Jeff Agoos or Erik Stover (or worse yet, all three) get to keep their jobs, possibly into next season or (shudder) even longer?

Krupnik spent a lot of his first game chasing the ball

The answer to the first question is easy: No. There is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, that the Red Bulls will have any more of a chance against the Trinidadian club than they did against any of the MLS sides they played over the last three months. The team’s performance its last two games, in a 3-1 home loss to the LA Galaxy and 4-0 beatdown in Colorado, was more pathetic than ever. If anything, it is moving backwards–as hard as that may be to believe. Its newest acquisitions–Leo Krupnik, Bouna Kondoul and Ernst Obster–do absolutely nothing to address the team’s various shortcomings. Its coach remains unwilling to budge on tactical or lineup strategies and continues to make decisions that boggle the mind.

Optimists may point to last season’s unlikely postseason run as evidence that Osorio and the Red Bulls have the capability to pull some magic out of their proverbial hats. After all, didn’t the team limp into the playoffs on the heels of a 5-2 beatdown at Chicago in the regular season finale? Didn’t it defeat the defending MLS Cup champions in the first round of the playoffs? After Osorio had made wholesale changes to his lineup, no less?

Yes, but believe in a repeat performance at your peril. For one, last year’s playoff run was a fluke. For another, it was largely the work of one man, Dave van den Bergh, who is no longer with the club. Third, the team actually managed to score a few goals late last season, not only at Chicago but in the penultimate regular season game against Columbus (a 3-1 victory) and even in the sloppy 5-4 defeat to Colorado a month earlier. This year? In the past five games the team has scored exactly once in a non-penalty situation.

Here’s what will happen in the first leg: The Red Bulls will play a 4-5-1 with Angel as the lone striker. The rest of the lineup is a bit of a question mark, but the following are likely: Nick Zimmerman will start on the bench again, because, well, he’s the one player who actually proved he can do anything with the ball. Perhaps Obster will start in Zimmerman’s place. Krupnik, who did so well last time, will start in central defense even though Seth Stammler would be better-suited to the job. Maybe Khano Smith will start, just because. Jorge Rojas should definitely start because he’s such a stud.

If the team makes it through the first 40 minutes without yielding a goal, it will do so in the waning moments of the half or in first half stoppage time. Maybe even twice. It will then be completely discouraged going into the locker room, though Osorio probably won’t make any substitutions. W Connection will score at least once more after that, presumably at the very end of the game just when Red Bull fans were thinking that maybe, just maybe they had a chance in the return leg. Maybe New York will get lucky and score one of their own, just to mess with their fans’ minds. The final result will probably be 3-1, 4-1 or 3-0. Either way, the return leg shouldn’t matter much though of course some fans will hold out hope. A few might even attend the game.

Now for the second question.

It would be foolish to think the authorities in Salzburg will take any action against Stover/Agoos/Osorio if and when the team fails to advance. The Austrian owners have done virtually nothing for the team since their first season in charge and we don’t expect that to change now. Especially when Osorio’s contract is guaranteed through the end of the season, as it is said to be.

But it would be just as naive to think the Austrian overlords will fire Osorio (and hopefully Agoos, if not Stover) no matter how the rest of the season turns out. Again: Salzburg has from all appearances taken a completely hands-off approach to this team. If somehow, miracle of all miracles, the Red Bulls manage to turn around the season–say, finish with a string of MLS wins in addition to making the CCL group stage–Osorio and Agoos can use the “body of work” argument to make the case for keeping their jobs through 2010 and beyond. For all we know the Austrians might even listen. Maybe they’ll even agree. These are the people who brought us Adolf Hitler and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The country seems to produce off-the-cuff people who might just favor an avant-garde approach to managing their New York outpost.

Then again, this team is just too lousy (on all levels) to manage even that kind of rebound. It won’t happen. If anything is certain in this season of misery, it’s that.

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Midseason review: A new low

Posted on 10 July 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Fans of the New York/New Jersey Major League Soccer franchise have certainly had their share of disappointments over the past 14 seasons. A procession of 11 coaches, six general managers and three ownership groups have passed through the vacuous confines of Giants Stadium, many arriving with great fanfare before succumbing to various degrees of failure. The franchise has been described as “cursed” or “snakebit,” but those words do no justice to the team’s shortcomings over the course of its decade-and-a-half history. Instead, the franchise has been nothing short of one giant case study in incompetence, be it by ownership, management, coaches, or a combination thereof.

It's been a rough season for Osorio (left) and Angel

Today, in the summer of 2009, the team has reached a new low–even by its own sad standards. After a surprise appearance in the 2008 MLS Cup game, it is on track for one of the worst seasons in the history of the league. Its record (two wins, 13 losses, four draws) and goal difference (15 for, 30 against) should speak for themselves, but sadly do the trainwreck no justice. The organization lacks direction on virtually every level: Its deadbeat Austrian owners have either lost interest or are biding their time or both, its general manager is utterly clueless and has given up even trying to pretend otherwise, and its attempts at marketing and “community outreach” have been ineffectual or, worse yet, embarrassments.

Then there’s the head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, about whom an entire volume could be written. The Colombian, who was poached from the Chicago Fire ahead of the 2008 season, is not without charisma (the same of which can not be said of his curmudgeonly predecessor) and to his credit seems to genuinely care about the mess he has created. But Osorio’s blunders run so deep and are so bewildering that he can at this point be described as wholly incompetent at best and a downright fraud at worst. This year, it took Osorio about a dozen regular season games to decide on a starting lineup and formation–with a squad that went to MLS Cup the season prior. Nor does there appear to be any method to his madness. Players are routinely lined up out of position, often on the opposite side of the field from their dominant foot. Others, after showing promise in one role, are forced into another, relegated to the end of the bench or kept out of lineups altogether. Some of the team’s most promising young talent is being wasted in this manner.

Osorio’s style, if he has one, is to bunker. He is so enamored with defensive football that he forsakes it for everything else, no matter the score or situation. The team shows little incentive going forward, its few feeble attempts limited to long balls. Only rarely do its few attacking players attempt runs or show for the ball. Mostly the ball is passed around the back before it is turned over to the opposition.

No surprise then that it took five games for the team to even score a goal by itself (a Week Two tally against New England was credited as an own-goal to Jay Heaps). Of the 14 it has scored to date, half have been unassisted, which indicates they were in all likelihood the result of a defensive error or set piece as opposed to the team’s own efforts.

Osorio’s love of defense transcends to his personnel decisions, though here some of the blame must also be placed on the team’s general manager Jeff Agoos. Over the past year the team has stockpiled defensive players, nearly all of them from Latin America, but Osorio still insists on converting midfielders and wingers into defensive roles. Yet the team’s defenders still lack some of the very basic fundamentals and are often caught ball-watching. Worse, the defense cannot hold leads and routinely concedes goals in the waning minutes of halves.

Osorio also appears to have a preference for thuggish players. Costa Rican right back Carlos Johnson earned red cards in his first two games with the team. Argentine defensive mid Juan Pietravallo, since waived, was known by fans as Pietra-foul-o for his propensity for picking up cheap cards, often shortly after entering games as a (defensive, natch) substitute.

Both Johnson and Pietravallo were signed by Agoos and Osorio. But the team’s personnel blunders these past 18 months go much further. The following bullet points are merely a few lowlights. Any Red Bulls fan can add to the list:

  • Its best player last season and the key ingredient (along with plenty of luck) in its postseason run, left winger Dave van den Bergh, was cast off to Dallas for effectively nothing. Osorio and Agoos said the Dutchman orchestrated the trade, but when a local Web site caught up to van den Bergh, he gave a different version of events.
  • To replace van den Bergh, the team traded for Khano Smith, who is (no exaggeration) one of the worst players in MLS history. Smith was one of Osorio’s few regular starters early in the season despite no indication whatsoever that he was up to the task. Finally he was benched. But he remains with the team and his contract is due to become guaranteed July 15.
  • For additional depth on the left flank, the team drafted Jeremy Hall from the University of Maryland. This was not a bad choice by any means; not only was Hall an integral part of an NCAA championship side, but he has all the intangibles to make it as a professional in MLS. Yet for reasons that remain obscure, Hall was not given a chance to win the left midfielder job, where his skills were desperately needed. Instead he was converted to right back, where he has performed admirably given the circumstances. But the Red Bulls were about to sign Carlos Johnson to play right back anyway.
  • Early in the 2008 season, the Red Bulls refused to give draft pick Eric Brunner a senior roster spot, waiving the young Ohioan in favor of Andrew Boyens. Brunner since signed with the MLS Champion Columbus Crew, where he is now starting. Boyens has been a(nother) defensive liability.
  • Midway through the 2008 campaign, Osorio signed three additional defensive players (Pietravallo, Gabriel Cichero, Diego Jimenez) from Latin America. None impressed or even seemed capable of starting on a regular basis. All are out of the league.
  • At the start of the 2009 season, Osorio brought in two more defensive players (in addition to Johnson). Alfredo Pacheco and Albert Celades, to their (and Osorio’s) credit have not been horrible. But the roster was already overflowing with players with their skillset (many acquired by Osorio himself). The team clearly had other priorities. It still does.
  • Jorge Rojas, whom Osorio brought on in 2008 to be his playmaker, has looked completely lost on the pitch and uninterested in contributing anything beyond ballhogging, which is not meant to insinuate Rojas is a great dribbler. Or even a good one.
  • An undrafted rookie goalkeeper, Alec Dufty, was signed as an emergency backup to Danny Cepero. When Cepero had to leave the fourth game of the season with a concussion, Dufty got the call. He played well, but was waived the following week to make space for Jon Conway, who was serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy (but had been protected in the expansion draft, despite having a hefty salary no team in its right mind would have picked up, least of all one that had already signed Kasey Keller. Curiously enough, the other player suspended with Conway, Jeff Parke, was not protected despite having far more marketable skills. Parke was promptly picked up by Seattle, but ended up signing with the Vancouver Whitecaps).
  • Conway was waived last month in favor of Bouna Condoul, whose salary demands are significantly smaller (though not as small as Dufty’s). But Condoul has been inconsistent in his MLS career to date. More importantly, the Red Bulls have far greater needs.

On the pitch the team personifies its wayward coaching and management. Its style might best be described as a perverted satire of catenaccio (the old Italian style of defensive soccer that is not even practiced in Italy anymore), but performed with unskilled youth players. Even if it were to work in attaining results, this system is unlikely to attract much of a following, especially in New York where the Red Bulls have to compete with countless other forms of entertainment, sporting and otherwise.

But the system clearly does not work, which begs the question: Why do Osorio and Agoos still have a jobs? It is hard to imagine any ownership group, in any professional sports organization (least of all in the world’s biggest media market) condoning such levels of incompetence. Yet despite widespread fan outrage, Red Bull has maintained a stony silence not only on Agoos and Osorio, but on virtually all matters affecting the team.

Does the Austrian corporation think Osorio and Agoos deserve to keep their jobs because the team made it to MLS Cup last year? The Red Bulls’ playoff run (a bit of a misnomer seeing as it entailed merely two road wins, the second of which was little more than pure luck) was not only a fluke, but one accomplished with players that were brought in by Bruce Arena, the team’s previous coach and GM. Not that Red Bull brass would care about these details even if they were aware of them. More likely, the team’s ownership is content to play out the string before finally, at long last, moving into its own stadium at the start of the 2010 season. Give Osorio and Agoos enough rope to hang themselves, a job they are performing with distinction, but do not sign off on any more of their acquisitions. When the season ends, clean house and bring in new management and coaches.

This assumes Red Bull still cares about the team. The Austrians are said to be frustrated with MLS’ institutional parity that prevents individual teams from doing just about anything without league approval. Understandable, but also the type of thing they should have been aware of, had they done all their homework. There have been rumors, none substantiated, that the energy drink company was looking to sell the team. Don’t be surprised to hear more of them.

To be sure, New York’s problems are the league’s problems. It is hard to see how MLS will ever escape its third-rate status without a successful franchise in its biggest market. Of course, the single ownership policy neutralizes whatever advantages might otherwise be afforded by the region’s size and scale. The “Beckham Rule,” which permits teams to exempt one player’s salary from the salary cap, has not had the desired effect (and not only because of all the issues involving its namesake). The Red Bulls even traded for a second designated player spot, but after wasting it on Claudio Reyna for a season and a half, have let it go unused. No marquee players in their prime are willing to come to MLS and only very few others (Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Kasey Keller come to mind) are worth the cost.

On some level then, the New York franchise is a symbol of MLS itself. Built on a previous generation’s love affair with the sport, but hoping to capitalize on burgeoning interest particularly among the communities of newest Americans, it began with great promise and fanfare. Handcuffed by its own policies, mismanaged through several quick fixes and restarts, it does not really know what to do with itself. It has some shiny new infrastructure waiting to be put to use, but if it’s going to make any progress toward fulfilling its great promise it has to get out of its own way first.

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Time to fire Agoos-OsorioOne supporter's letter to the front office

Posted on 30 June 2009 by ASN Staff

Dear Erik Stover,

When you are in command of people, tough and inevitable decisions must sometimes be made. A time when the benefit of the unit outweighs the benefits of the individual. That time for your “unit,” Mr. Stover, is now.

It is time to put an end the Jeff Agoos-Juan Carlos Osorio team that has run the franchise the last season and a half–for the benefit of your organization, its fans and its future. The hopes and goals of this franchise cannot and will not be fulfilled under its current course. Consider the following bullet points:

1. Consistency
I know this is something the organization craves. Many feel the constant coaching and managerial changes have crippled progress for this franchise. I happen to believe this assumption, however sticking to your guns is in itself an empty virtue. More important is finding and sticking with the gun that delivers success and progress.

The Agoos-Osorio tandem has indeed brought consistency, but consistency of the wrong kind: losing, which we can all agree is not what we are looking for. We can make excuses or deflect accountability, but the fact is that ever since your predecessor’s grand folly of poaching Osorio and appointing Agoos, this team has been in steady decline.

Mr Stover, I firmly agree in the general premise your organization wants to establish, however we need to do that with the right leadership. The merits here have shown fairly convincingly that Agoos-Osorio are not the right leadership.

2. Results
You have stated that you understand this is to be a results business. As such it is only fair to highlight the results since the Agoos-Osorio takeover. The 2008 season can really only be described as sub par. When they took over this team we had just finished third in the Eastern Conference with a capable sqaud that only really needed minor additions, primarily on defense.

In 2008, Osorio’s team finished with 39 points, which places them well in the bottom half historically for this franchise, and fifth place in the East. Osorio’s first season with New York saw him turn in a worse performance than 2007 by two places in the table and four points.

Yes, we all know about the playoff run, but that string of (really just two) results were very out of character for this team, as evidenced by this year’s performace.

In 2009, the table doesn’t lie. This is statistically the worst season in the history of the franchise–yes, at the current pace even worse than the crippling 1999 season.

Osorio’s overall record in league play since taking control: 12-23-13. Yes, Osorio has lost twice as many games as he has won and even drawn more games than he was won. That equates to a 1.02 points-per-game total.

Where does that rank amoung Metro/Red Bull coaches all time? Only behind Bora in 1999.

3. Player Signings
There are few ways for a coach to more effectively influence a team than in crafting its roster. The success both long term and short term of a club is directly tied to the talent the coach identifies and signs. To this end, we can not pretend that Agoos and Osorio are doing the job.

Pietravallo, Rojas, Cichero, Smith, Pacheco, Johnson, etc. These players have all failed in Major League Soccer and with our team. As a result of the scouting and signings, this team has become crippled with sub standard talent.

Either the players are not up to par, or the coach is not utilizing them properly. In any event, the blame here falls directly on the shoulders of the Agoos-Osorio team.

I could go on (and on), but i think it’s best to leave it at this. There are a lot of people in your organization whose jobs are on the line, maybe even your own. This coaching deficiency is making everyone’s job harder and vulnerable. At this point the only wise and prudent course is to make the tough decision and give Agoos and Osorio their walking papers before they do any more permantant damage to this team. (Getting knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League comes to mind)

We need to have Ritchie Williams take over as interim coach while we identify potential replacements. Those replacements should be on board by this fall so they have plenty of time to shape the team for next season.

In the end, there is no justifiable reason for keeping Osorio and Agoos any longer. They have had plenty of chances to make right and have failed with all of them. I know that firing people is hard, that you may like them as individuals and may not want to do it for any number of other reasons–but there are also a lot of other people with careers who are counting on you too, who will lose their jobs as well if the team continues its current course. You have a duty to the organization and to its fans to do what is right and what is best for the franchise.

A supporter

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Casey Strikes Out Woeful Red Bulls

Posted on 31 May 2009 by arozsa

If there really is no place like home, the New York Red Bulls are in for an awfully long summer.

With seven out of their next nine upcoming games on the road, the Red Bulls finished off a four game home stand with a whimper, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Rapids at Giants Stadium Saturday night. Conor Casey enhanced his reputation as a Red Bulls killer, notching a goal in each half, with Mehdi Ballouchy slotting home a penalty kick which proved the eventual winner.

Juan Pablo Angel tallied his fourth goal of the season for the home side on a first half penalty kick. It was also his free kick that was cleaned up by second half substitute Danleigh Borman after being spilled by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

It was a typical, hard fought English-style victory for Gary Smith’s side that left New York Red Bulls manager Juan Carlos Osorio more exasperated than impressed.

“There wasn’t too (much) sophistication in the game,” said Osorio after the game. “It was about getting it wide, putting it into our box and compete for the aerial ball.”

“Obviously, we didn’t defend it well…and we were harshly punished for it.”

New York certainly started the match brightly enough, however, and Angel will certainly rue his gilt-edged chance that fell to him in the first minute on a long cross from left back Alfredo Pacheco. Macoumba Kandji was finding room early as well, roaming behind the strikers at will and finding space.

The visitors quickly adjusted, however, as Colorado skipper Pablo Mastroeni and Nick LaBrocca began to occupy the early lanes the Red Bulls were finding. By the 20 minute mark they had wrested control of the midfield and the game, and Colin Clark’s 25th minute cross, a looping, searching far post effort, was superbly headed in the net by an unmarked Casey.

“Casey’s a great player,” said New York defender Kevin Goldthwaite. “You’ve got Brian Ching, Brian McBride…Casey’s one of those guys.”

For all the attention Casey should have been drawing, the Rapids were still looking for him at every opportunity. After initiating a counter attack with excellent hold up play, he nearly got on the end of another Clarke cross in the 38th minute.

The Red Bulls clawed their way back into the game by halftime though, as Corey Gibbs was whistled for what appeared to be a soft penalty on Dane Richards. The Jamaican had been played into the box by Angel and went to the turf to the dismay of players and coaching staff alike.

Angel coolly dispatched the penalty and the Red Bulls went to the locker room certainly feeling like they were in the running for all three points.

Almost beyond belief, it took Casey just under three minutes to get free again and give Colorado a lead they would not relinquish. Omar Cummings lashed in a hard cross across the six yard box, and an unmarked Casey glanced a header to the far post that left Jon Conway flat footed.

The goal was Casey’s 6th in his last two games at the Meadowlands, and even he was at a loss for why he had so much space.

“I can’t tell you why,” said Casey of his Big Apple goalscoring tear. “I just know that both games, I had a lot of opportunities and a good deal of space.”

After Casey’s second tally, Colorado’s physical midfield play and disciplined shape began to squeeze the life out of the game. The climb looked insurmountable after Albert Celades tripped up Cummings at the very corner of the penalty area.

“I personally feel it was a tough decision to swallow,” said Osorio, clearly reflecting the feelings of most of the twelve thousand plus in attendance.

New York did make a game of it eventually, adding Borman to the fray and pushing Kandji to the front line. The Senegalese had spent much of the game roaming in the midfield, but his slashing runs at Colorado defender Scott Palguta troubled the Rapids to the point where the defender was pulled 10 minutes from time.

After Borman’s 73rd minute goal, the Red Bulls had one chance to equalize through the dangerous Kandji, but the Rapids defense, as they were most of the night, were quick to pounce and snuff out the danger.

The loss leaves New York at 2-3-2 and rooted to the bottom of the table in the Eastern Conference They are now in serious danger of completely falling out of the race earlier than is usual in MLS, with a brutal road schedule looming.

“We are in a very difficult situation right now,” said Celades. “We were hoping to to obtain more than four points while we were at home…now we have to get those points away from home.”

Player Ratings (scale of 1-10 with 10 being best)

Conway – 5 – Nobody questions his shot stopping. But a goalkeeper who isn’t confident on crosses is in for a long night against this Rapids side.

Goldthwaite – 6 – Lost Casey on the second goal, but was typically solid most of the night. His inexperience at the position showed through at key times.

Petke – 5 – Fared well against McBride last week, dominated Kamara the week before, but was absolutely abused by Conor Casey tonight. Lost him on the first goal, and was beaten for easily 75% of aerials challenges, and was powerless when Casey had the ball with his back to goal.

Pacheco – 6 – Solid enough on defense, but didn’t have Terry Cooke to deal with. Lacks teeth going forward, and Osorio wasted no time pulling him to spark the attack.

Hall – 5 – The rookie was mostly solid on defense, but was specifically called out by his manager for allowing Colin Clarke the space to deliver several crosses. Gets forward repeated at the right times, only to be ignored by his teammates. Needs to start demanding the ball perhaps?

Celades – 6 – Struggled at times with the physical Rapids midfield. But his class shows at times, and perhaps he’ll take more of an assertive leadership role as the season wears on.

Stammler – 8 – MOTM match for NY in a losing effort. His distribution and comfort on the ball have improved to the point where you don’t even notice his motor…which is still superb.

Ubiparipovich – 6 – Looks quite dangerous, but is sorely lacking the instinct for the final ball. Needs to start getting on the score sheet in support of Angel and Kandji.

Kandji – 7 – Looked lively in the first 15 minutes before Pablo Mastoreni decided to show him the ropes. Pushed higher up the field late in the game, and perhaps should have been there the whole time. How often do you see a central defender get abused to the point where he gets pulled 10 minutes from time while his team nurses a lead?

Richards – 5 – So much speed but so little craft around the net. Was unable to work well in the midfield with Hall, but he’d better learn if he wants to stay in the lineup, because Kandji is far superior attacking the goal.

Angel – 5 – Disappointing for the Colombian. His free kick led to the goal, but he wasted several others late in the game shooting from near impossible angles. A physical centerback can take him out of the game, and Cory Gibbs was more than up to the task.


Sassano – 5 – Anonymous.

Borman – 7 – Quite lively, and is showing improved vision as he approaches goal. Opportunistic goal.

Wolyniec – 6 – Knocked down several balls late, and nearly helped Kandji create an equalizer. Supersub duty seems to suit him.

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Why does this man still have a job?

Posted on 26 May 2009 by ASN Staff

Calls for Juan Carlos Osorio’s head are nothing new. They grew vociferous after the New York Red Bulls’ 2008 regular season finale, a pathetic performance that for all intents and purposes should have ended the team’s season without a trip to the playoffs (but didn’t when it was afforded a back door entry via the Western Conference bracket). They have picked up again with the team’s slow start this season, quieting briefly after the Red Bulls’ victory over San Jose earlier this month.

Now comes word from the Washington Post, a normally reliable source, that Red Bulls brass are losing patience with the man they hired to replace Bruce Arena ahead of the 2008 season. It’s hard to blame them, frankly. Last year’s postseason run aside, the team has mainly played bland, boring, defensive-minded soccer with a rotating cast of mainly high-priced Latin American players brought in by Osorio himself. But does this mean Osorio should lose his job? That, we think is a bigger question and one which we now solicit opinions for. So vote in the poll and support your view in the comments field below.

[polldaddy poll=”1652370″]

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Osorio concerned over Angel health

Posted on 21 April 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

After Saturday night’s game with Real Salt Lake, New York Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio admitted to concerns over the health of the team’s key striker and designated player, Juan Pablo Angel. The former Colombian international was removed from the game in the 65th minute.

“Unfortunately we train on turf and I can’t deny the fact that that takes a toll on players,” said Osorio. “As a precaution we took him out early. Hopefully he will be good to go.”

At issue is Angel’s hamstring. He struggled with a similar injury at the start of last season that was caused by an arthritic nerve-related injury in his lower back. It is not known if this is the same injury or a newer one. Angel for his part did not seem concerned. “I was sore during the week and it was pretty much a precaution,” he said after the game.

If Angel cannot go, the Red Bulls will be short their main attacking threat. Macoumba Kandji has showed promise this season but the team lacks depth at the forward position. Dominic Oduro or John Wolyniec could fill in alongside Kandji or Osorio could go with a lone striker.

Either way, Osorio is clearly not afraid to tinker with the lineup and the fact that the team finally played well Saturday, winning their first game of the season, does not change this. Asked if he would use a similar lineup in Thursday night’s game at Kansas City, Osorio replied with a curt “No.

“You know me well enough, depending on who we play I always take that in consideration plus there are other guys who deserve the chance,” he said.

The coach did concede that after Saturday night’s performance–the team’s best by far in five games this season–it would be difficult to make wholesale changes. But with two games in four days, he will be forced to rotate bodies. “We will have two games Thursday and Sunday, so we need to keep everybody fresh,” he said.

Jeremy Hall is suspended due to the red card he picked up late in Saturday’s match. Carlos Johnson will likely start in his place. Kevin Goldthwaite and Carlos Mendes seem to have developed a strong rapport in central defense, but Goldthwaite has his own injury worries. Andrew Boyens should see some action in either or both of the upcoming games. Alfredo Pacheco impressed in his debut at left back and should be the obvious choice to start at that position. Albert Celades did not dress for Saturday’s match but should hopefully be available.

More will be learned when the team releases its official injury report. Either way, Red Bulls fans can expect changes to their team’s lineup. Nothing new there.

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Options galore for Osorio

Posted on 17 April 2009 by ASN Staff

Suddenly, Juan Carlos Osorio has options. With Alfredo Pacheco finally receiving his ITC card and Albert Celades fully match fit, Osorio finally has (with one exception; Carlos Johnson who received a red card in Houston) his full suite of new players available to start in the team’s game against Real Salt Lake at Giants Stadium on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, the team is still glaringly thin in attack, which just so happens to be where it is most desperate for help. Through four games the Red Bulls have one (1) goal to their credit, which wasn’t even scored by a member of the team (New England’s Jay Heaps put it in his own net in the season opener at the Swamp). Wing play is another shortcoming, where the absence of last year’s best player Dave van den Bergh (now with FC Dallas) looms large. Van den Bergh’s understudy last year, Danleigh Borman, was shifted to left back while the team waited for Pacheco. New signings Khano Smith and Jeremy Hall, who can play the position, were either not given a chance to do so (Hall) or have proven completely ineffective (Smith).

On the right flank, the most intriguing option may be Matthew Mbuta, another player Osorio does not seem enamored with (judging by the amount of times he’s played him this year: zero). Mbuta, signed from USL-1 side Crystal Palace Baltimore last season, has speed and technical ability and showed in a game last year that he can effectively create chances for the team’s forwards.

Still, Celades and Pacheco should shore up the team’s defensive midfield and back line, respectively. With his 10-game suspension served, goalkeeper Jon Conway is eligible to return to the pitch. Expect him to get the start–and further stabilize a weak defense. Kevin Goldthwaite and Carlos Mendes are both listed as questionable. If they can’t go, Mike Petke and Andrew Boyens could start. Actually they could both start anyway and maybe not even in defense. That’s the thing with Osorio; you simply never know where or how somebody will show up in the starting lineup. Or, for that matter, what the formation will be.

Another injury is Macouba Kandji’s right ankle sprain, picked up in the early stages of the Chicago match. The lanky forward is also listed as questionable. His status, more than anything, will foretell the team’s chances of finally getting off the schneid offensively. Without an effective strike partner, Juan Pablo Angel can be neutralized. And without Kandji, the Red Bulls simply do not have any other realistic options. Dane Richards, so impressive during last season’s playoff run, appears limited and uninspired in four games this year. Dominic Oduro offers little. That leaves John Wolyniec as maybe the best bet. Will Woly get the start? Nobody knows, probably not even Osorio.

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Revs claw out 1-1 draw at Swamp

Posted on 29 March 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Try as they might, the New York Red Bulls just can’t beat the New England Revolution. Since the team’s 2006 reincarnation as “FC Energy Drink,” New York has not managed to defeat their rivals to the north in a regular season game. Saturday night at Giants Stadium, they came about as close as they ever will, surrendering the game-tying goal on a defensive foul-up that brought to life some of the franchise’s most painful memories–and perhaps resurrected demons thought exorcised by last season’s memorable playoff run.

Leading 1-0, the home side was done in by a desperate long ball in the 90th minute that went over defender Kevin Goldthwaite. Red Bulls keeper Danny Cepero had compromised himself by coming out past the penalty spot to challenge the ball, leaving an empty net for New England striker Kenny Mansally to volley the ball into.

The goal was not without some controversy. Red Bulls striker Macoumba Kandji had injured himself on the previous play and was laying by the Revs’ endline. Standard procedure would have been for New England, once it spotted the injured player, to put the ball into touch so Kandji could receive treatment. Instead, Shalrie Joseph launched the “hail Mary pass” that led to Mansally’s equalizer. The Red Bulls, for their part, did not seem to fault New England for playing on as much as they blamed themselves for not making their opponents–and the referees–aware of the situation. “I thought that was naivete,” Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio said of the play. “You have to be cleverer than that. It’s the last minute of the game, Mac…when he was down, instead of our official going to look at him, Dominic [Oduro] just rushes back and we just aren’t prepared to defend the long ball.”

Kandji said he should have stayed down rather than try to get back into the play, as the referee was urging him to do. “The ref kinda helped me up fast and the next thing I know, it’s a goal,” he recalled. “I think [New England] should have kicked the ball out of bounds and I think I should have stayed down longer. Even if the ref comes and tries to help me up, I should have stayed down.” The Senegalese forward said he had learned from his mistake. “A tough lesson to learn but those little mistakes we have to make up to make us better,” he said.

While the team’s play as a whole was vastly improved from opening night in Seattle, it still has not scored a goal this season by its own hand; the 35th minute go-ahead goal was an own-goal by Jay Heaps on a cross from his former teammate Khano Smith. Kandji, probably the best Red Bull on the night, made it happen, dribbling free and playing a perfectly-paced ball into the area for Smith to run on to. Smith was looking for Angel but Heaps played the cross into his own net.

Both coaches felt their teams were hard done by the result. “I gotta be honest with ya, I thought we deserved to win the game,” said Revs head coach Steve Nicol. “We created some great chances but never took them.” Osorio, while admitting the Revs “had a couple of good chances in the first half,” nevertheless insisted his team was better in the second and “basically gave that point away.”

Osorio switched from the 4-3-3 formation in the Seattle game to a 4-4-2 with Kandji and Juan Pablo Angel as the strikers. Kandji seemed to prefer being an attacker in the 4-4-2 more than the winger position he played in Seattle. “If they put me up top, I can run back and forth everywhere, I can help defend because it’s a free role,” he said.

The role suits him as well. Kandji is simply not a winger, least of all a left wing. Not only does he have great control on the ball, but his 6’4″ frame makes him a better target for crosses than creator of them. He reads the game extremely well and, once he spots his teammates’ runs, has the passing skills to put the ball into space for them. This was on display several times Saturday night, most notably in the Red Bulls’ first-half goal and in the 75th minute when he found Angel on the right side of the six yard box, where the Colombian’s shot narrowly missed the far post.

So Kandji needs to be in the center of the pitch, where he can see a lot of touches and create chances as well as finish them. Come to think of it, maybe the 24-year old is the creative attacking midfielder the Red Bulls have been searching for?

“He played really well, he held the ball well, he created chances for us,” Osorio said of Kandji. “Perhaps too many back heels to my liking but we’ll sort that out.”

The biggest surprise to Osorio’s starting lineup was the starter at left back, Danleigh Borman. “Because Mansally and Kheli Dube are quick strikers, I wanted a quick defender and a tall defender who can compete in the air,” said Osorio about his decision. While the latter player sounds like it may describe Mike Petke, Osorio seemed to prefer a left-footer for that position, even though it was in central defense. “Kevin is my only left-footer so that was the upper hand for him,” he said of Goldthwaite. “And obviously Carlos Mendes is the quicker of the two.”

How did Borman do in his new role? “In my opinion Danleigh Borman was our best player in the first half,” said Osorio. “So I’m pleased with that decision.”

Where do the Red Bulls go from here? To Chicago, next Sunday, to play the Chicago Fire, unbeaten in their first two games of the season. The last time they played at Toyota Park, New York was embarrassed in a 5-2 beatdown that very nearly ended their season. Next week’s game will be dissected in due time. First, this week’s player ratings:

New York Red Bulls Player Ratings (1-10 with 10 being highest)

Cepero – 6 – Bailed the team out big-time in the first half but shaky on crosses. Also not without fault on the Revs goal.

Borman – 7 – Did well playing an entirely new position, but was not challenged all that much. Still, nice job.

Goldthwaite – 5 – Played better than he did in Seattle (which doesn’t say anything) but still not good–or even average. A few nice headers in the first half but too much ball-watching. And of course the game-tying goal is largely on him.

Mendes – 5.5 – Didn’t always pick up his man quickly enough (or at all, even). Some stupid fouls. Unnecessary yellow card.

Hall – 7 – Another strong showing. This boy’s got skills. Appears to be particularly strong in the air. Was beaten on one ball in the first half but otherwise solid throughout.

Smith – 6.5 – Did well in the first half. Had some nice passes and created problems for the Revs defense. Disappeared after half time.

Ubiparipovic – 6.5 – Several good moves, particularly in the first half. His job duties were mainly defensive, but he can factor in the attack as well. Some of his passes were a little heavy though. Also a bit selfish at times.

Sassano – 6 – Barely noticeable, which is okay seeing as he too was mainly tasked with a defensive assignment. Nearly scored the game-winner in stoppage time.

Richards – 6 – Had a few moments but need to see more of him.

Kandji – 8.5 – In my view the best player on the pitch. Showed great ball control, strength on the ball, vision and creativity, creating nearly all of the team’s chances. Could be a very dangerous player if he is used properly (i.e. not as a left wing) and gains confidence.

Angel – 6 – Didn’t see enough of him in the first half. Did the most of the few chances he got. Is he doing enough to show for balls? Appeared frustrated with Richards at times.

Match Facts

New York Red Bulls 1, New England Revolution 1
March 28, 2009 – Giants Stadium, E. Rutherford, N.J.

Scoring Summary:
NY- Own Goal (35′)
NE – Kenny Mansally 1 (Shalrie Joseph 1) 90′

New York Red Bulls — Danny Ceparo, Jeremy Hall, Kevin Goldthwaite, Carlos
Mendes, Danliegh Borman, Khano Smith (Doninic Oduro 77′), Luke Sassano,
Sinisi Ubiparipovic, Dane Richards, Macoumba Kandki, Juan Pablo Angel

Substitutes Not Used:Alec Dufty, Mike Petke, Matthew Mbuta, Juan
Pietravallo, Nick Zimmerman, John Wolyniec.

New England — Brad Knighton, Kevin Alston, Chris Tierney, Jay Heaps,
Darrius Barnes, Wells Thompson, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Sainey
Nyassi (Amaechi Igwe 46′), Kenny Mansally, Kheli Dube.

Substitutes Not Used: Zack Simmons, Rob Valentino, Pat Phelan, Michael
Videira, Argenis Fernandez

Referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: Greg Barkey, Nate Clement
4th official: Jorge Gonsalez
Time of game: 1:50
Attendance: 12,462
Weather: Cloudy, 50 degrees

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New faces face new questions

Posted on 19 March 2009 by arozsa

Osorio holds court at RBNY media day (©First Row Photos)There are new faces everywhere. The lineup? A mystery. The formation? Well that all depends. If it is unclear which team I’m talking about at this point, then we’re on the same page.

Thursday night’s season opener pits the ever-changing foreign legion of New York against the permanently promoted Seattle Sounders in a match-up that is chock full of equal parts excitement and, well, utter confusion.

New York fans are assuredly accustomed to turnover by now. But the amount of new faces in town just four months after the long suffering club’s first MLS Cup Final appearance may be a bit of an eyebrow raiser to the outsider. However, Juan Carlos Osorio really hasn’t changed the team as drastically as it seems, replacing his failed corps of hand-picked Central American defenders with…different ones. Dave van den Bergh, one of the few mainstays of last year’s edition, was respectfully given his leave for family reasons, but rumor has it that it was the Dutchman’s remarkable Midwest accent that prompted his dismissal.

Seattle, of course, was always going to be a question mark. Sigi Schmid, who played foil to the Red Bulls surprise title hopes last fall, now takes the role of architect, engineer and benevolent, rotund deity for the Sounders. He found success with his Columbus Crew side by means of fielding a consistent lineup around the lynchpin Guillermo Baros Schelotto. Now with a roster mixed with USL-1 standouts, MLS journeymen, highly-touted imports and limping underwear models, it’s anyone’s guess as what Schmid is going to throw out there opening night.

Of course, by anyone, I mean me. This is a preview piece, supposedly.

Projected lineups:

New York (4-3-3): Danny Cepero, Kevin Goldthwaite, Andrew Boyens*, Mike Petke, Jeremy Hall, Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovich, Jorge Rojas, Dominic Oduro, Juan Pablo Angel, Dane Richards

(*Not on the injury report, but Brian Lewis of the New York Post is reporting Boyens is unavailable)

Key bench players: Macoumba Kandji, John Wolyniec, Matthew Mbuta, Juan Pietravallo, Carlos Mendes

Missing players: Jon Conway (suspension), Khano Smith (suspension), Seth Stammler (injury), Alfredo Pacheco (not signed), Carlos Johnson (not signed), Albert Celades (not signed)

Seattle: (4-4-2): Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Hurtado, James Riley, Sebastian Le Toux, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Sanna Nyassi, Nate Jaqua, Fredy Montero

Key bench players: Steve Zakuani, Stephen King, Patrick Ianni, Tyson Wahl, Nathan Sturgis

Missing players: Freddie Ljungberg (injury), Jarrod Smith (injury), Pete Vagenas (injury)
So how do the teams stack up side by side?

Goalkeepers: If there were two players with a bigger disparity in experience, I’d like to see it. Unless Kasey Keller has adopted my personal fitness regime the last 18 months, he immediately is among the league’s best. Advantage: Seattle

Centerbacks: Petke has gotten good reviews in the preseason, and should perform adequately until his 33 year legs get turf-angry. Boyens gets the nod because Osorio is still upset after finding out that Carlos Mendes is American. Seattle has one experienced (and foul-prone) performer in Marshall and a potential rock in Hurtado. Advantage: Push

Fullbacks: Goldthwaite and Hall occupy the corners for the Red Bulls for now, and both are superb athletes but with questionable ability to play the position completely. Seattle, however, has all-time expansion draft king Riley and a USL guy on the flanks, and are most likely having unpleasant dreams about dealing with Richards and Oduro. Advantage: New York

Midfield: Sigi Schmid seemed lukewarm about his central midfield pairing after the scrimmage with Colorado, but frankly, they are all he has. One of the two needs to become close friends with Jorge Rojas, however, as he’ll be bereft of all defensive responsibility by Sassano and Sinisa and will be looking to play through his speedy flank players all night. Advantage: New York

Forwards: Yes, Fredy Montero’s signing was a major success for Seattle. But all 30,000 scarf-clad Seattleites will be expecting this young man to carry the load for this new team, and not every player can carry that weight. Conversely, Juan Pablo Angel will draw several defenders every time he ventures into the box; that is until the Sounders backline starts nervously glancing side to side for a sight of Richards or Oduro getting behind them. Advantage: New York

Bench: New York has speed (Kandji, Mbuta) and experience (Wolyniec, Mendes, Pietravallo) waiting in the wings. Seattle is woefully thin, as to be expected from an expansion side. Steve Zakuani and Nathan Sturgis are both less than 100%, making matters even worse. Advantage: New York

Overall, it’s a walk on paper for New York. Its rebuilt roster is speedy and deep, and the Sounders backline will have a hard time dealing with it. However, if Seattle can get an early goal and feed off the crowd, which is certain to be flush with bottomless optimism, then an inaugural win for them is easily possible.

Prediction: 1-1 draw
, with Seattle’s crowd willing them to it.

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