Red Bull Return: Is It Who You Play or How?

No, I didn’t watch the full 90+ minutes in the true, linear sense, so here’s to hoping I saw enough for what appears below to hold up. I’ll be filling in match reports from other outlets as I read them in the space below (and any volunteers should feel free to drop their views in the comments).

MLSnet.com
New Jersey Star-Ledger 
New York Newsday 
Soccer by Ives
Toronto (?) Globe & Mail 

Here’s what I saw:

Red Bull New York won on Sunday and deservedly so; the 3-0 score spoke fairly to dominance of a sort. But would the Red Bull team that soundly beat a battered Toronto FC (TFC) have topped the valiant Columbus Crew side that wilted against FC Dallas? My answer, based on 45 minutes of snapshot viewing, is probably not. And because good enough to beat a gutted Toronto ain’t the same as reviving your fortunes, it’s hard to peg Red Bull in the grand scheme.

Pieces of the team certainly worked well. For instance, Red Bull’s forward pair ably harassed Toronto’ back line; Josmer Altidore, in particular, turned in a buzzing and bright afternoon that should have won him Man of the Match honors (don’t know; didn’t check). They also spent long periods waiting for service. New York did well enough with possession, but too often only between the back four and the deep-lying midfield; too many passes forward from there took the form of long balls down the flanks that strayed out of bounds. The defense, thanks to the fairly feeble efforts of Toronto’s offense, essentially took the game pass/no-pass – and they passed.

Speaking of Toronto, simply naming four of their missing starters – Danny Dichio, Robbie O’Brien, Marvell Wynne, and Jeff Cunningham – says plenty about why they ended the first half without taking a shot. Harsh as it sounds, the understudies fell so far short of being up to the job that Andrea Lombardo’s shot to what looked a lot like Hunter Freeman’s “pills” (that’s “balls,” for the euphemistically challenged) stands as the signal offensive contribution from Major League Soccer’s Canadian contingent – and that was “offensive” on a number of levels (the bill for that is, no doubt, on its way). With unfortunate/clumsy defending accounting for two of Red Bull’s goals, Toronto’s defense hardly covered itself in glory either.

Speaking of goals, and returning to Altidore, his second strike – Red Bull’s third – highlights the difference between simply looking stupid on defense and being made to look stupid. The speed and decisiveness of Altidore’s movement in creating that goal so flustered the lone defender and TFC’s ‘keeper that both of them did, in fact, fall on their bottoms. Against some fairly strong competition, Altidore turned in my vote for goal of the week.

Other random observations:

– With all due respect to Ives Galarcep, Claudio Reyna is looking like the most unfortunate designated-player signing so far – and I write as someone who both appreciates, and has long admired, Claudio’s game. But the nagging injuries and the resultant on-off time he’s spending on the field means he’s fulfilling all the wrong predictions about how he would fare in MLS.

– Something else that bears watching: Juan Pablo Angel’s relationship with his teammates. As much as I appreciated the celebration after scoring his goal, Angel’s body language upon accepting his teammates congratulations showed all the warmth of an urbane and successful Arkansan greeting his hillbilly relatives at a family reunion. He seemed particularly chilly with Dane Richards, of all people. I may be reading more into that than I ought, but I’m going to keep an eye out for what looked an awful lot like aloofness from his teammates.

– The one sentence above hardly does justice to the number of frankly lousy passes forward out of Red Bull’s defense. Passes of that sort surrendered possession far too easily and, against a better team or a healthier Toronto, I can’t imagine New York would have been as dominant.

– I’m hardly celebrating this, but Toronto doesn’t look to have the depth to reach the post-season in their inaugural year. In fact, that I can’t think of anything more compelling to say about them than this – and flagging Lombardo’s cheap shot (it was bad) – says quite a bit about where these guys are right now.

One Response

  1. […] but it was their limited ability for playing the ball out of the back – something I commented on in an August post, but noticed on more several other occasions – that really struck me about not only the defense, […]

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