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A road win! Bulls shut out Sounders, 1-0

Posted on 04 April 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Macoumba Kandji ©Scott Marsh/ASN

So far in 2010 the New York Red Bulls have raised the curtain on their new ground, laid to rest a “curse” that haunted the team for close to two years, won their first two games while not surrendering a goal in the process. Suffice it to say the Red Bull Arena era is off to a flying start. Tonight in Seattle, the team got an early goal from Macoumba Kandji and held on through some hair-raising moments to survive with a 1-0 win, just as they did against Chicago in the season opener.

Joel Lindpere discussed the game with reporters shortly after the final whistle. Give it a listen.

Other than that, there were numerous differences between tonight’s win at Qwest Field and last week’s at Red Bull Arena. Where the team’s defense impressed against Chicago, it was the Red Bulls’ attacking game that stood out against Seattle. Conversely, while its offense was almost completely stagnant in the season opener, its defense (and goalkeeping) was caught flat footed on more than just a few occasions in Week Two. Even the team’s coach was different: Richie Williams took the reins from Hans Backe, who watched from the hotel on doctor’s orders. The Swedish coach is expected to be back in charge next week at Chivas USA.

Tonight, New York got lucky. How many times will you see Freddie Ljungberg miss a header from point blank range, the way he did in the second half? How many mishandled crosses can Bouna Condoul get away with before the ball ends up in the back of his net?

For now, the team and its fans will gladly take the six points from two games. And winning at Seattle is particularly enjoyable after the season-opening meltdown one year ago. Then it was “Same ol’ Metro.” Now? Something more like “who are these guys?” And “break out the Red Bulls!”

Much more to follow, as we weave in reportage and photos from the ASN crew in Seattle. For now, here are the New York Red Bulls player ratings. Be sure to supply a grade and back up your assessment in the comment area at the bottom of the page.

Player Ratings

From 1-0 with 10 being highest:

Condoul – 5
Some stellar saves in the second half but man, this guy is a total liability on crosses. Very nearly cost the team several times.

Hall – 6
Several mistakes in the early going. Was beaten by his man a number of times in the first half as well. Did better in the second, even launching a few forays into the Sounders half.

Petke – 6
Caught out of position several times but there were several others where he was positioned perfectly. Still, the Sounders had way too many chances to warrant a higher grade at this point.

Ream – 6.5
Like Hall, he made a jittery start with a number of turnovers. Recovered and had some nice long balls to the forwards but eek, this was hairy.

Miller – 7
Spotted just one mistake in the first half, when an errant pass led to a Sounders chance. Was a rock in the second, however. Dispossessed Ljungberg a few times in the attacking third and locked down his part of the field, where the action was hotter in the late stages of the game.

Richards – 5
Better than the Chicago game, but not much. Did play a few nice balls into space in the early stages of the match, but most attacks still ended with him putting his head down and going nowhere. And how about that miss late in the game? This is the second time in as many games he was involved with what should have been the insurance goal. Against Chicago he teed off from a tight angle instead of slotting the ball to Angel. Here he blasted a perfect sitter (great service from Borman via Kandji by the way) over the bar.

Stammler – 6
Solid, not spectacular, which is what the holding midfielder is supposed to be. Turned the ball over a few too many times for my liking and was a bit quiet. But it’s his first game back. Something to build on.

Lindpere – 7
Did his part launching attacks in the first half. In the second his role was obviously more defensive, which makes sense with a 1-0 lead. And he did that well also. A stabilizing influence on the team overall.

Ubiparipovic – 6.5
Did well in the later stages of the game but was too sloppy in the first half to deserve a better grade. Still, a very high workrate on the left wing. Perhaps too high? Maybe his energy could be used more efficiently?

Angel – 5
Another disappointing performance. Complained a lot about bad, or nonexistent service, but did nothing with the chances that were provided (mainly from Kandji). Still doesn’t seem completely comfortable in the offense and not sure if tracking back the way he does is working. Also appears tentative, presumably due to injury. Don’t think it would have hurt to sit him for this game. As it turns out it didn’t hurt to start him either.

Kandji – 8
If I didn’t know better I’d almost think he read and took to heart last week’s rating, when I wrote “Mac needs to lighten up on the stepovers and backheels and go back to fundamentals. Make runs, move the ball…” He did exactly that and the result was an entirely different attacking game for the Red Bulls. Scoring the winning goal was nice enough; he did well to find a spot and then position his body to deposit the ball in the roof of the net when it bounced his way. Better still were some of his passes, particularly in the second half; the one to Borman should have resulted in the second goal but went wanting (see Richards, Dane). Kandji just seems more comfortable in a withdrawn forward role, hopefully he’ll see more opportunities in this position.

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Match Facts

New York Red Bulls 1, Seattle Sounders FC 0
April 3, 2010 –Qwest Field; Seattle, WA
Attendance: 36,066

Scoring Summary:
NY: Kandji 1 (unassisted) 21’

Disciplinary Summary:
SEA: Ljungberg (caution) 10’
NY: Petke (caution) 35’
NY: Kandji (caution) 62’
SEA: Riley (caution) 63’

Lineups:
New York Red Bulls (2-0-0) – Bouna Coundoul (GK), Roy Miller, Tim Ream, Mike Petke, Jeremy Hall, Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Danleigh Borman 79’), Joel Lindpere, Seth Stammler, Dane Richards, Macoumba Kandji (Conor Chinn 89’), Juan Pablo Angel

Substitutes Not Used: Greg Sutton, Andrew Boyens, Austin da Luz, Juan Agudelo, Tony Tchani

Seattle Sounders FC (1-1-0) – Kasey Keller, Leo Gonzalez (David Estrada, 83′), Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, James Riley, Steve Zakuani (Sanna Nyassi 76’), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Roger Levesque (Pat Noonan 56’), Freddie Ljungberg, Fredy Montero

Substitutes Not Used: Terry Boss, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott, Nathan Sturgis

Officials:
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee’s Assistants: Darren Clark, Hector Vergara
4th Referee: Tyler Ploeger

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Bulls edge Fire in Red Bull Arena regular season opener

Posted on 28 March 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The New York Red Bulls weren’t terrible in their regular season home opener Saturday night, but their performance wasn’t nearly as polished as it was in the Red Bull Arena “grand opening” against Santos a week earlier. In fact, the Red Bulls probably weren’t even better than the visiting Chicago Fire. Head coach Hans Backe admitted as much in his postgame press conference (which can be listened to in its entirety here). Also be sure to check out the photo gallery.

Juan Pablo Angel, the team’s captain, also said the team “could have played a lot better” and saw ample room for improvement. “There’s still a lot of stuff to work on. Our passing wasn’t as good as it normally is, but when you win and know you still have to correct things it’s easier. When you lose, your confidence drops. That was our problem last year.”

New York will gladly take the three points, especially against a team that has had their number for several years and especially in their first official game at Red Bull Arena. The game’s only goal came in the 40th minute on a terrific volley from Joel Lindpere. It was the second goal in as many games for the former Estonian international, here seen celebrating the tally:

Lindpere celebrates the go-ahead goal in the 40th minute ©Scott Marsh/ASN

Backe said jokingly he didn’t know the left-footed Lindpere had a right foot. When told of this after the match, he replied “no I don’t have. It’s for walking.”

Chicago nearly went ahead on a bicycle kick by Brian McBride that bounced past Bouna Coundoul, who was off his line, and off the left post in the 23rd minute. “I came out, I had the ball and I was backing up,” Condoul recalled after the match. “When he bicycle kicked I thought the ball would go out of bounds. But as a goalie that’s why I don’t like to gamble…the ball seemed to be heading out but all of a sudden it hit the post.” It was the only time Condoul looked at all shaky in the game; he would come back with some stellar saves in the second half.

The goalkeeper also repeated the familiar refrain of singing the new ground’s praises. “When we’re home, the fans, everybody’s behind us, we play with pride,” he said. But at times in the first half, with his back to the Empire Supporters Club, this was almost too much of a good thing. “Once in awhile it’s kind of tough to communicate with defenders…I can yell, tell them left and right, it’s difficult [to hear]”

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.

Match Facts

New York Red Bulls 1, Chicago Fire 0
March 27, 2010 – Red Bull Arena; Harrison, NJ

Scoring Summary:
NY: Joel Lindpere 1 (unassisted) 40’

Disciplinary Summary:
None

Lineups:
New York Red Bulls (1-0-0) – Bouna Coundoul (GK), Roy Miller, Tim Ream, Mike Petke, Jeremy Hall, Danleigh Borman (John Wolyniec 71’), Joel Lindpere, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Dane Richards, Macoumba Kandji (Tony Tchani 90’), Juan Pablo Angel

Substitutes Not Used: Greg Sutton, Andrew Boyens, Luke Sassano, Austin da Luz, Juan Agudelo

Chicago Fire (0-1-0) – Andrew Dykstra, Tim Ward, Wilman Conde, C.J. Brown, Mike Banner, Julio Martinez (Collins John 54’), Peter Lowry, Logan Pause (Baggio Husidic 61’), Marco Pappa, Patrick Nyarko, Brian McBride (Justin Mapp 79’)

Substitutes Not Used: Sean Johnson, Krzysztof Krol, Steven Kinney, Corben Bone

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: Craig Lowry, Eric Boria
4th Referee: Jeff Gontarek
Attendance: 24,572

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Red Bulls win second straight, eye sixth place

Posted on 31 August 2009 by arozsa

Richards got the game winner

After not winning a game since May, the New York Red Bulls have now won two straight after a 1-0 victory over the defending champion Columbus Crew Saturday night at the Meadowlands. Dane Richards scored in his second straight game for the home side as they climbed within five points of an improbable basement escape in the Eastern Conference with six games to play.

It may be too late to matter, but even a modest winning streak is a welcome tonic for a long-suffering franchise toiling through one of the worst non-expansion seasons in leauge history.

“Very happy to get another win,” said Interim Coach Richie Williams. “We haven’t had a whole lot this year so I’m proud of the guys.”

Columbus, still reeling from a 5-0 Champions League meltdown in Mexico midweek, rested key attacking starters Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Moreno and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

“Jason (Garey) and Lenhart are very good players,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “They were a little bit fresher than the other guys, that’s why I started them.”

However complementary their manager might have been, all three of the rested starters made late cameos, but were unable to provide the final touch the visitors lacked all night.

The clearly travel worn Crew, along with with the play-out-the-string mentality of the Red Bulls and typical drudgery of the concrete-like surface at Giants Stadium, made for a game that was destined to be mired in midfield. The chances were few and far between in the first half, but as the Crew threw men forward for their numerous set piece opportunities, the space began to open up for New York on the counter attack.

Richards broke out in the 53rd on such a chance, but was unable to find his teammates running the channels and his tame effort from distance was blocked. He made no mistake on a similar circumstance 10 minutes later, after picking up a deflected cross from the Crew’s Frankie Hejduk. With no teammates in support and one man to beat, he side-stepped his defender and slotted past Columbus reserve goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who was caught halfway off his line.

“I was just trying to get it under control,” said Richards, who bumped his league tally to three with the goal.

“I waited until he backed up into the box and I took him one-on-one and finished it.”

Hejduk, who was unable to recover on the play after getting tangled up with Juan Pablo Angel, earned a yellow card for protesting what he seemingly felt was a deliberate attempt by Angel to take him out of the play. The Columbus defender declined to speak with reporters after the game.

New York, now seemingly restored in confidence during the most difficult season in recent memory, plays host to the struggling Kansas City Wizards next week. A third straight victory would put the interim Williams’ win tally on par with the departed Juan Carlos Osorio’s total for the season. Additionally, it would give the Red Bulls a fighting chance of finishing the season in something other than last place; something that would surely give weight to Williams’ application for the full-time position.

Despite all the nuances, there was no mistaking the biggest motivating factor.

“I don’t want to be remembered in history for being part of the worst team in the MLS,” said Angel.

Meanwhile, in the land of things that actually matter for this season, the Crew gave up a golden opportunity to move into the pole position for their second straight Supporters’ Shield after Houston and Chicago also lost this weekend. Their brutal September schedule continues next week with a trip to the ultimate nightmare CONCACAF venue, Estadio Saprissa, followed by a weekend league fixture at Chicago.

New York Player Ratings

Coundoul – 5 –
Didn’t have to make any big saves, but made things plenty interesting by repeated flapping at crosses. If Schelotto were given more than 5 minutes to work with, he would have been promptly punished.

Petke – 7 –
Typically well suited to match up against physical forwards, and did not disappoint, rendering Steven Lenhart (the love-child of Bill Laimbeer and Kurt Rambis) ineffective all night.

Boyens – 6 –
Steered clear of the gaffes that had plagued him from time to time, and so he gets a solid rating. Lost track of Jason Garey a few times in the first half, but was fortunate that his finishing was atrocious.

Borman – 5 –
Struggled with Ekpo early on, but tightened up as the game went on. Made a crucial clearance off the line in the first half. Did not offer much going forward.

Johnson – 6 –
Solid down the right, and presented the best service on the squad. Needs to keep his composure out there, though.

Stammler – 5 –
Looks thoroughly worn out, and spent most of the day chasing the play. Looking forward to seeing this guy play on a grass field day in and day out next year.

Ubiparipovic – 5 –
Chased and worked alongside Stammler. Had some neat connecting play, but also took a few wrong angles and had a few bad giveaways.

Richards – 6 –
Got the game winner, perhaps even despite himself, after spurning several chances. His teammates were as thrilled for him after the goal as they were frustrated after he repeatedly missed them in space.

Rojas – 4 –
Was this guy even on the field? Pulled for Kandji early in the second half, and the difference was palpable. Looks to be on the first plane back to Venezuela when the season ends.

Wolyniec – 7 –
Made himself a constant nuisance up top and was unlucky not to score after absolutely tattooing the near post in the second half. A savvy, effective veteran who is willing to play third or fourth fiddle on an MLS is a player that New York, whomever is calling the shots, would be insane not to bring back.

Angel – 7 –
Perhaps he’s not the DP caliber 20 goal scorer he was when he came into the league, but gave 100% for the cause, which usually meant coming back to midfield to get the ball and get whacked. Get this guy on a grass surface, with another high caliber forward beside him, and 15 goals is a possibility.

Subs
Kandji – 7 – Impacted the game immediately when he came on, streaking up and down the left side. Spent the rest of the game hitting the turf to mixed success.

Sassano – NR – Came on late to spell the midfield.

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Woly rescues point for 10-man Red Bulls

Posted on 17 May 2009 by arozsa

A touch of veteran guile canceled a moment of youthful inexperience, as John Wolyniec‘s 88th minute equalizer salvaged a point for the 10-man Red Bulls Saturday night in New Jersey.

The veteran forward pulled down a hopeful ball into the box, turned his defender and squeaked a shot past the defense for his first regular season goal in almost two years. The goal also marked the first league goal conceded by the Dynamo since April 4, a streak spanning four games.

“I was a little far from the goal and it was the wrong angle,” said Wolyniec of his goal. “I just put it down and kept it as close as possible and just hit it.”

New York midfielder Jorge Rojas was sent off for a wayward elbow on Brian Mullan in the 35th minute, but the game remained scoreless until the 78th minute, when Houston’s Chris Wondolowski got on the end of cross from Corey Ashe after a blistering run down the left flank.

Dominic Kinnear had his squad playing compact for most of the game, even with a man advantage. But the introduction of Ashe 15 minutes from time changed the paradigm for the visitors, and rookie right back Jeremy Hall, on as a substitute for the injured Carlos Johnson, failed to recognize the danger as he was caught up field. Ashe streaked into the space behind, and the counterattack was on, giving the visitors the solitary goal they sought.

“We wanted to try and get more guys forward, and Corey obviously brings in a good spark,” said Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear. “They (substitutes Ashe and Wondoloski) made an impact on the game which was nice to see.”

The goal did not stand though, and the Red Bulls nearly stole all three points in stoppage time, as Kandji, Angel and Wolyniec terrorized the Dynamo backline up to the final whistle.

“We competed very well for 90 minutes,” said New York Head Coach Juan Carlos Osorio. “We deserved a point.”

The game, for the most part, was mired in a physical midfield battle from the beginning, as the visitors kept their lines compact and made their intent known.

“They are always physical,” said Wolyniec. “That is one of the reasons they are successful every year.

The dangerous moments, when they did come, came from the flanks. Red Bulls right back Carlos Johnson got free in the 8th minute to send in a dangerous cross, while Brian Mullan sent a scorching ball across the face of goal in the 18th.

Johnson, in one of his many active moments down the right flank, collided with Stuart Holden in the 21st minute. He managed to limp off the field and came back on briefly before being replaced by Hall.

The physical nature of the game began to crescendo as the half wore on, with Ade Akinbiyi picking up a yellow card for a neededless hack at Red Bulls centerback Kevin Goldthwaite in the 27th minute. It boiled over 10 minutes from the break, as Rojas, being pestered and harried by Mullan, lashed out with an elbow and was given his marching orders.

“It was not my intention at all to make any aggression,” said Rojas after the game. “I’m not that kind of player.”

Nonetheless, it was New York’s fourth red card of the season, and will force Rojas to miss next Sunday’s clash with Chicago. His failure to leave the field in a timely fashion may well lead to a longer vacation, as he had to be restrained from Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad on his way to the locker room.

Osorio refused to let his team back into a shell in the second half, despite being down a man. Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Macoumba Kandji pressed high up the field on the outside to try and occupy Davis and Mullan, while Houston offered little initiative to get anyone forward from the back.

When Kinnear finally made the switch to three in the back in the 75th minute, the payoff was immediate. However, Wolyniec’s equalizer squelched the Canadian manager’s adventurous streak, who quickly withdrew Davis for defender Craig Waibel.

Wolyniec’s goal, his first of the year, may present Osorio with some selection issues going forward.

“He’s in a difficult position because he competes directly with Juan (Pablo Angel),” said Osorio. “Hopefully he will keep scoring goals and force himself into the starting eleven.”

The draw keeps New York one point behind fifth place New England in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls will now travel down I-95 for a midweek Open Cup clash against DC before completing their May home stand against Chicago and Colorado.

RBNY Player ratings (1-10 with 10 being best)

Conway – 7 – Made some nice saves, including a nice reaction save on a Geoff Cameron header, and a tricky parry on a stinging drive from Stuart Holden. Looked shaky coming off his line once or twice. Left out to dry on the goal.

Goldthwate – 7 – His usual self. Took a beating but cut out cross after cross. Houston left its attack entirely to its forwards for large parts of the game, and he dealt with nearly everything quite well.

Petke – 7 – Another strong game from Petke, who showed his value against physical forwards like Kamara and Akinbiyi.

Pacheco – 5 – Had his hands full with Mullan, but was able to do just enough to keep his crosses from being accurate. Didn’t offer much going forward, but containing Mullan kept him busy. Removed for tactical reasons late.

Johnson – 6 – Was involved in every dangerous Red Bulls attack, but ended his night with a hospital trip to check the damage on this foot. Can’t seem to catch a break.

Stammler – 8 – Covered tons of ground and took Stuart Holden out of the game entirely. Forming a very nice pairing with Celades.

Celades – 7 – Becoming the calming presence New York needs. Showed he can be effective even against a physical team. Still not fit for 90 minutes.

Rojas – 4 – Let his team down with the Red Card. Will likely get an extra game for the elbow and another vacation day for his refusal to leave the field in a timely fashion.

Ubiparipovic – 7 – Becoming a very useful player for New York, showing an excellent motor and good instincts going forward. Shows good tactical sense, and serves in a nice right footed ball.

Kandji – 5 – Didn’t deal well with the physical Dynamo, and let himself be taken out of the game mentally at times. Sat and nursed a slightly bloody lip instead of joining a promising attack in the second half. Still, he shows flashes of incredible ability at times.

Angel – 5 – Looked slow and uninterested in dealing with the physical defense that surrounded his every touch. A few weeks rest might do him good at this point.

Substitutes
Hall – 5 –
Showed his inexperience in not recognizing the threat of Ashe when he came on and was punished for it. Otherwise he played well, showing good strength and aerial ability at the position.

Richards – 5 – Offered little when he came on, and seems to be difficult to play with for the fullbacks behind him.

Wolyniec – 8 – Did exactly what was asked of him. Shows terrific strength and energy, and the goal was vintage Woly. Seems due for a run in the side.

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New Tactics, New Result in New Jersey

Posted on 09 May 2009 by arozsa

How does a team keep from hitting rock bottom less than 10 games into a season? Find a team that’s struggling even more, step on them and climb. New York did just that Friday night at the Swamp, scoring a club record four first half goals en route to a 4-1 mauling of the lowly San Jose Earthquakes.

Two Jorge Rojas goals in the first 15 minutes took the suspense of the match early, and additional tallies by Juan Pablo Angel and Macoumba Kandji sealed the points for New York, moving them into a tie with New England for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Ryan Johnson added a consolation tally at the end of the first half, but it was already too late for San Jose, who have only woeful FC Dallas to thank for keeping them off the table bottom.

“Today was the game we were expecting to have a long time ago,” Angel said afterwards. “The first half was a different class in terms of the way we played, how we closed them down, we denied them space, we denied them the ball.”

As Juan Carlos Osorio had hinted throughout the week, New York came out with different personnel and a different approach to try to turn the tide of what has been a trying season so far. Albert Celades made his first career MLS start alongside Seth Stammler in central midfield. Rojas and Sinisa Ubiparipovic played much narrower than would have been asked of usual starters Dane Richards and Khano Smith in the attacking midfield, allowing room for the fullbacks to roam the flanks.

“We had a lot of contribution from the fullbacks tonight,” said Osorio. “We had a very good distribution from the midfield and Seth (Stammler) and Albert (Celades) showed very good signs of a partnership.

Despite the changes, it was the recognition of a major mismatch that fueled the first half barrage from New York, as San Jose left back Eric Denton was overwhelmed by Kandji, who was repeatedly pulling wide to find space. He nearly broke free in the second minute as he picked up a through ball in the channel and drove his cross directly in the midsection of ‘Quakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

The breakthrough wasn’t long in coming, however. Kandji again broke free down the right side and drew a free kick near the touchline. Rojas curled a ball in towards Kevin Goldthwaite, who missed his attempt at a glancing header. The attempt wrong-footed Cannon, who could only flail in vain as the ball bounced inside the far post.

San Jose had little time to shake off their bad luck, as New York pressed down the right once again in the 12th minute, earning a deep throw in. Right back Carlos Johnson, who spent much of the first half in the attacking third, fired in a line drive throw-in directly to the forehead of Kandji, who’s flick found Rojas all along on the back post to double the lead.

“I was looking for players who were coming in to the box,” said Rojas. “We worked on that during the week.”

Rojas’ goals, his first two in MLS, seemed a due reward for the Venezuelan International’s practice work and improved league form.

“I think Jorge had been knocking on the door for quite a while,” said Osorio. “I think when he plays farther up the pitch, he is very good to us.”

Osorio’s other prized signing, Celades, also made his presence known. Along with contributing to the dominating midfield effort with his assured possession and short passing, he also added desperately needed vision into New York’s attack. He played Kandji through in the 18th minute only to be foiled by Cannon. He then found Kandji alone in space again on the right side, who then drove a ball across the six yard box to a grateful Angel’s waiting boot.

It seemed very much an epiphany for Kandji, who had missed his strike partner on similar runs earlier in the half. Angel quickly acknowledged his teammate’s effort.

“I keep learning, I keep improving every game,” said Kandji. “I’m going to just pick it up and try and play better next game.”

The lanky Senegalese striker wasn’t finished, using his seemingly endless reach to poke a ball clean from San Jose centerback Kelly Gray. He then raced on to the loose ball and slammed it home without needing another touch to give the Red Bulls a 4-0 lead in the 40th minute.

San Jose looked a defeated side even before the half, but provided a glimmer of hope for Frank Yallop by pulling back a goal before the half. Former New York Red Bull Chris Leitch overlapped down the right side, and his searing cross was cleared by Pacheco only as far as Ramiro Corrales. He nodded back across the goalmouth to a waiting Ryan Johnson, while the Red Bulls unsuccessfully appealed for offside.

It was too little, too late for San Jose who dropped to 1-5-2 in the young season. Despite maintaining most of the possession in the second half, they rarely threatened. Yallop’s decision to wait until less than 20 minutes remained to add a third forward seemed telling of his team’s plight. Playing without Darren Huckerby for the fourth straight game, the Earthquakes lacked a dominating personality in the final third with Bobby Convey and Aturo Alvarez drifting from the play for much of the game.

The Red Bulls, on the other hand, seemed poised to turn their season around. And they’ll get to make that turn on a jughandle, as they won’t have to leave New Jersey for a league game until June. The competition will certainly get stiffer, and with league ties against Houston and Chicago straddling a midweek open cup fixture against DC United on the 20th, Osorio’s approach to squad rotation will be in the spotlight.

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs this year,” remarked Angel. “Energy hasn’t been a question in this team…tonight we were much more organized (than before).”

New York Red Bulls Player Ratings

Cepero – 5 – His shotstopping is never in doubt, showing his skill on a nice save to deny Alvarez in the second half. But he flapped at several crosses on the night and looked uncomfortable with the ball at his feet.

Goldthwaite – 7 – Solid as usual. Grows in confidence every game in the back, and seems to be quickly becoming the leader of the back four.

Petke – 7 – Matched up with the bruiser Cam Weaver on the night and came out on top. With Brian Ching, Brian McBride and Conor Casey coming to town this month, he very well might be the most important Red Bull this month. Stock up on the advil.

Pacheco – 6 – Got forward at times, and was very effective when he did so. Mostly seemed content to stay at home and allow Rojas to roam free. Bailed out Cepero by taking a fierce shot off from Convey off the forehead late in the match.

Johnson – 8 – Terrific game for the Costa Rican, who found acres of space to streak down the right side with Sinisa pinching in. It took his midfielders a while to start finding him, but they eventually did. His surreal, arrow-flighted long throw-ins created a goal and seemed to unsettle San Jose. Also, no red card.

Stammler – 7 – Huge motor on this guy. If he had come along in 2002, he might have very well had a similar career to Pablo Mastroeni. Also like Pablo, he often was a little too eager to charge forward, exposing his backline on occasion.

Celades – 7 – Took a while to get his rhythm, but started to show his qualities midway through the first half, making a point of finding Kandji and the raiding Johnson repeatedly in the seams. His composure and vision were at times a step above anyone on the field. If he can stay healthy, he can be one of the league’s best. Ever.

Ubiparipovic – 6 – Tidy on the ball and a terrific motor. Left the flank play to Kandji and the fullbacks. Will be a very valuable player for NY this year.

Rojas – 8 – Looked extremely comfortable in the narrow attacking midfield role handed to him by Osorio. Repeatedly found space to operate and looked lethal when he did tallying his first two goals in the league. Still showed tendencies to dribble in bad spots on occasion, but he seems to be catching on to the speed of play in MLS.

Kandji – 8 – Eric Denton will be having nightmares about Macoumba for months after this one. Repeatedly pulled wide while the midfield stayed narrow, and that’s where he is at his best. His final ball to Angel looked like learned behavior from the training ground, and Angel made sure that he acknowledged it. Often got to loose balls and turned the corner when it seemed nearly impossible to do so.

Angel – 8 – The most telling sight for this game was the complete absence of Angel in the midfield. He stayed high all game, providing terrific target and hold up play. Will score 15+ goals if the service continues as it was tonight.

Substitutes were not rated, as the 4-1 scoreline didn’t allow for a very competitive second half.

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Still no goals, but a point in Houston

Posted on 12 April 2009 by Nathaniel E. Baker

The New York Red Bulls fought their way–at times almost literally–to a scoreless draw against the Houston Dynamo Saturday night at Robertson Stadium. It was a gritty and rough game, with few clear scoring chances on either side. Six cautions and two red cards were issued before the night was done. New York lost two starters to injuries and now may have a three-way fight for starting goalkeeper on its hands.

The Red Bulls had to make their first substitution just eight minutes in when goalkeeper Danny Cepero collided head-to-head with Dynamo forward Kei Kamara after they were both going for a Brad Davis free kick. Cepero sustained a Grade One Concussion and was replaced by rookie goalkeeper Alec Dufty, who ended up making a good impression. More on that in the player ratings below.

Carlos Johnson’s first MLS start ended prematurely when the defender was given a straight red card in the 78th minute for a two-footed studs-up challenge on Bobby Boswell. Kevin Goldthwaite left the game in the 65th minute due to a hip pointer injury and was replaced by Mike Petke. Midfielder Albert Celades also made his MLS debut, coming on in the 64th minute for Seth Stammler.

The Dynamo had a chance to win it at the end when substitute Corey Ashe’s cross found Ching, but the forward’s header was held by Dufty. Moments later, Houston’s Mike Chabala was shown a red card for a late tackle on defender Danleigh Borman.

Match Facts

New York Red Bulls 0, Houston Dynamo 0
April 11, 2009 – Robertson Stadium; Houston, TX

Scoring Summary:
None

Disciplinary Summary:
NY: Pietravallo (caution) 13’
NY: Boyens (caution) 34’
HOU: Ching (caution) 43’
NY: Stammler (caution) 54’
NY: Petke (caution) 68’
NY: Johnson (red card, ejection) 78’
HOU: Boswell (caution) 79’
HOU: Chabala (red card, ejection) 93’+

Lineups:

New York Red Bulls (0-2-2, 2 pt.): Danny Cepero (Alec Dufty 8’), Danleigh Borman, Kevin Goldthwaite (Mike Petke 65’), Andrew Boyens, Carlos Johnson, Juan Pietravallo, Seth Stammler (Albert Celades 64’), Khano Smith, Jorge Rojas, Dane Richards, Juan Pablo Angel

Substitutes not used: John Wolyniec, Dominic Oduro, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Luke Sassano

Houston Dynamo (0-2-2, 2 pt.): Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Wade Barrett (Mike Chabala 80’), Brian Mullan (Corey Ashe 70’), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Stuart Holden, Kei Kamara, Brian Ching

Substitutes not used: Tally Hall, Danny Cruz, Julius James, Craig Waibel, Chris Wondolowski

Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee’s Assistants: Adam Wienckowski, Adam Garner
4th Referee: Jason Anno
Attendance: 19,494

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

Alec Dufty: 7
Was not tested much but looked very stable when he was. Appears to play his position very well. And at 6′ 6″, definitely has the size (unlike Cepero?). We say give him a chance to win the starting job for the RSL match in training, then see where things go.

Danleigh Borman: 7
Played well for the most part. Was only beaten clearly once (in the first half) and made several key tackles after that. Also had good forward runs. Like seeing him take corners too.

Kevin Goldthwaite: 8
The best Red Bull on the pitch. This is the Kevin Goldthwaite we saw and loved in the postseason last year. A solid presence in central defense. Made several crucial tackles. Hopefully his injury is not severe.

Andrew Boyens: 6
Did his job for the most part. A little shaky at times, which we’ve come to expect. But no egregious errors.

Carlos Johnson: 5
Until the red card he actually played pretty well. But the foul (and it was a clear red card) came at a terrible time, was completely unnecessary and almost cost his team the game. Seems to be a dirty player (and not just because of the foul).

Juan Pietravallo: 6
Did his job in defensive midfield. Only picked up a yellow card, which is a major step up for him. Actually had a few good tackles in the second half. Seems a bit clueless at times but if the team is just bunkering he can maybe have a role.

Seth Stammler: 7
Great to have him back. Nearly scored on a cracking shot early in the first half. Passed well, defended well, but clearly ran out of steam in the second half. That’s fine. This team will clearly be a lot better with him in the lineup.

Khano Smith: 4
A very limited game from a very limited player. Several times did not seem to have the faintest idea where to play or what to do. Nearly cost the team a goal late in the second half. Had several “swing and miss” moments that were simply embarrassing. Why did the Red Bulls sign him again?

Jorge Rojas: 5
Better than what he did at Chicago, which isn’t saying much. As the “creative force” in central midfield is dangerously thin on ideas. Doesn’t hold his position, doesn’t pass well, doesn’t defend. How much longer before this experiment is declared a failure and he is shipped off to Venezuela (or wherever)?

Dane Richards: 6
Had a few nice runs with the ball, but not enough to make much of a difference. Defenders know how to play Richards now; show him onto his left foot and stay on your heels prepared for him to burst by you (or try to). A limited player who seemed to make great strides in the postseason but appears to have regressed so far this season.

Juan Pablo Angel: 6
Another largely disappointing performance. Hard to say what is eating at JPA’s game and how significant it is to his prospects for this season and beyond. Is it merely poor (or inexistent) service from the Red Bulls midfield? That would certainly frustrate any striker. But his first touch has also escaped him a few times and he seems a step slower. Is age creeping in? Will need more evidence before making an assessment. For now it is clear that New York’s best player (and arguably the best striker in the league) is not getting the ball when and how he wants it. And that’s a problem the team needs to address.

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First Kick player ratings

Posted on 21 March 2009 by arozsa

The first game of the 2009 Major League Soccer season was an unbridled success for everybody but the New York Red Bulls. Juan Carlos Osorio’s lineup was a disappointment on just about every level with only Jeremy Hall providiing anything resembling a bright spot. Otherwise, it was almost as if last season’s playoff run hadn’t happened, with the team more closely resembling the pathetic display in the 2008 regular season finale at Chicago. ASN’s Adam Rosza divvies up the grades. Keep in mind these are on a score of 1-10, with 10 being highest.

Player Ratings – RBNY @ Seattle

Cepero – 5 – Likable kid, who was alert off his line to snuff out a lot of danger. But the top American goalkeepers have the reach to save the first one, and the reflexes to parry the second.

Boyens – 4 – Quick hook, but probably paid some for Goldthwaite’s sins. Looked sluggish and heavy-footed.

Petke – 4 – Tried hard, and was on his own much of the second half, but is very limited on the ball as Fredy Montero proved. Has the same speed as the rest of the NY defence…which is trouble.

Mendes – 5 – Battled hard and won his share of tackles, but lacks the pace and offensive instincts to play right back.

Goldthwaite – 4 – Looked several steps off the pace much of the night. Got caught ball-watching on the first goal, and his crossing was absolutely awful.

Pietravallo – 3 – How does a player run this much while covering so little ground? Lacks focus and purpose with and without the ball. Failed to track Brad Evans out of the midfield on the second goal. One wonders if his presence on the roster is necessary when Stammler and Celades return.

Ubiparipovich – 5 – Invisible much of the night…often seemed lost trying to figure out what his midfield partners were doing.

Rojas – 5 – Needs workers behind him doing all the dirty work, because he won’t be bothered with defending and simple connecting passes. The more space he had around him, the better he looked. Had a fierce volley parried over the bar.

Richards – 5 – Bottled up most of the night, but looked dangerous at times. Needs to learn how to work with an overlapping fullback to create space.

Kandji – 5 – Smooth on the ball and fast, is much more effective with the ball at his feet going towards goal. Got abused with his back to goal.

Angel – 6 – Showed an alarming lack of pace. When he wasn’t getting service, he dropped back into the midfield to get the ball, leading to NY’s best sequence.

Hall – 6 – Great debut. Added much needed speed to the backline.

Borman – 5 – Provided quality service from the left hand side…to nobody!

Pretty ugly! ASN’s Seattle Sounders writer did the identical exercise with that team’s players, albeit with predictably different results. Check those out here.

Let us know what you think of the RBNY grades by commenting below.

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