Red Bull Loses, Wins: Hide the Children

There are ugly wins. Then there’s the win the New England Revolution picked up against Red Bull New York. The Revs will take this home – albeit like a dog covered with a mystery rash requiring a long, long course of lubing with topical ointments, I doubt they’ll be showing it off.

As the title implies the Red Bull did this to themselves: between helter-skelter defending and losing the beat to the possession game that had them looking the better team in the first half, Red Bull ceded the initiative and hung too close to the ropes. Bizarrely, though, the coup de grace came with a wild throw from one of their own: a thumping back-pass from Carlos Mendes to Jon Conway, who, unbeknownst to his teammates, was sleep-walking.

Things looked nearly as ugly on the other side of the ball. With New England playing like they were – the usual mixture of hard-running, hand-grenade quality passing (e.g. close enough), and scrapping after every 50/50 – the telling mistake was always going to come from a Red Bull blunder; the only surprise came with the great, whopping, even stomach-turning aspect of the thing.

For the record, I watched this game in the morning, when the Insanity Juice is safely locked in the fridge. So, my notes should read a little more literally. Here goes:


– Good first foray for NE…damn football lines…

– HOLY CRAP! Claudio Reyna (RBNY)? Who’s that guy?

– Didn’t know about the lopsided balance of the all-time series (and it was preserved).

3rd Minute: Good play out of the back by NY; Claudio starts it with a quick, incisive pass; 1st chance of the game.

4th Minute: Avery John saves NE: Jeff Larentowicz (NE) didn’t have the legs to keep up with Dane Richards (RBNY). John v. Richards a match-up to watch.

– NY keeping the ball on the carpet; penetration isn’t there, but it beats the blind, long-ball approach from the previous few outings I’ve watched.

8th Minute: Nice attack for NE; changed point of attack, etc.; ensuing corner left NY frazzled.

GOA…. no, offside. Josmer Altidore (RBNY) JUST offside; Juan Pablo Angel (RBNY) to Altidore, combining well again.

– James Riley (NE)? Dang it…he looks tiny next to Angel.

11th Minute: Seth Stammler (RBNY) takes OK shot, cleans up RBNY attack.

– All in all, NY looks better; NE doing OK, but not more than that.

– Ah, Jay Heaps (NE) is injured; explains Riley’s presence (I skipped the starting line-ups).

– Pat Noonan (NE) missing; loss of brains and dynamism a tough thing to cover.

14th Minute: Beauty run by Clint Mathis (RBNY); great save by Matt Reis (NE).

– John Harkes’ (RBNY assistant coach) “little box” commentary was spot on about NE’s Shalrie Joseph; almost imperious in the center of the field.

17th Minute: Revs look like RBNY normally does; a little wayward, hopeful in their passing…so far, anyway.

19th Minute: PK?! Adam Cristman (NE), um, sits down in the box and somehow gets the call. Joseph steps up….shanks it. As Shep Messing put it in the commentary, “poetic justice”; horrible call.

– Reyna’s passes are so precise and crisp; good to see out there, even generally for MLS.

22nd Minute: Joseph almost springs Cristman; good vision, patience, and control by Joseph.

24th Minute: Yup. NY doubling on Khano Smith (NE) every time he comes down the left.

– Messing notes NE doesn’t look sharp; he’s right. But they still have the tools to steal the game.

26th Minute: near-chance for NE; Andy Dorman (NE) on the right; two Revs players miss.

– Altidore looking a little lazy/predictable today; his too-casual play just squandered an opening with Mathis.

– Smith looking brightest for NE (and by a pretty good number of lumens).

29th Minute: Well, shut me up! GOAL: Angel to Altidore; great pass by Angel, great run and finish by Altidore.

– Angel is playing back a bit generally and to good effect.

– On the other side, Steve Ralston (NE) looks a bit tentative (by this I meant he’s hanging back and not trying to penetrate into the box a whole lot; Smith seems a better route to goal.

39th Minute: Larentowicz barely missed with a sleepy, roller of a shot (damn, was that foreshadowing; NY’s fragility meant NE didn’t have to do much to threaten).

– Even as Larentowicz is growing on me, he definitely lacks Joseph’s offensive upside; much more limited.

41st Minute: Reis’ distribution, quick and long throws, is exposing NY’s flanks – at least twice now.

42nd Minute: “Into the mixer” (NE’s bread-and-butter) just baffles the RBNY defense; a big, ongoing problem for them.

44th Minute: AGAIN! This time RBNY kept backing up with Joseph in possession; the failure to shrink the vertical space opened things up for NE; about the 4th SHOT on the night for NE that just missed (or, rather, trickled) wide.

– Revs working long, diagonals pretty well.

HALF TIME (That Angel character has a good brain up there; seems nice as all get out too).


– Back to it…

– Hate to say it, but Shep Messing isn’t that bad in the broadcast booth.

46th Minute: GOAL! Twellman scores; marking???? No middle; just awful for NY. It came off a goal kick; Twellman just skipped in a gap and stole it, finished it off.

– Arena should yank Altidore, spell the kid (then again, when you make changes like this, what’s that do to the plan you took into the game? Can NY adjust? Will the settle again? (Sadly, no, they never figured it out)).

– After his goal, Twellman squirts Revs Coach Steve Nicol with Gatorade…dang…chummy aren’t they? (Maybe this is NE’s problem: a players’ coach?).

– (Funny thing: this came to me just before they started talking about it in the broadcast) Reyna is playing deep; I bet he’s there to help with the transition out of defense, a big problem for NY lately. Mathis is keying the attack; did well in 1st half.

– Revs might want Wells Thompson on for Ralston; would give an energy boost. (They just showed NE’s bench and, wow, that’s young and shallow).

55th Minute: horrible distribution/passing from Larentowicz; bordering on liability.

– NE better in the 2nd half; though that could be RBNY dropping off…rhythm from first half all gone; that’s the issue for them.

60th Minute: What?! Smith comes off? No, no, no…

– Thompson’s on, so I got my wish; not much of an upgrade given what came off.

– Wait, no, I bet they’re going to move Ralston to the middle…but who goes out right?

61st Minute: Angel through on goal; great save by Reis on a weak-ish shot.

64th Minute: Take a shot Richards!! (he’s having a good game generally v. John and Smith).

– Interesting thing about NE: Joseph is so pivotal to their overall game (he just tried to play in Cristman), but marking him out of the game won’t work; they use him a lot, but don’t rely on him; have other options.

67th Minute: Thompson played in around half line; Cristman got inside nearly finished off a good counter. (A small mess ensued on the corner that followed…that RBNY defense will be the death of them).

– If there is an heir apparent for McBride, I’d point to Cristman right now. Closest in style (that mono-focus on the ball and total willingness to place body in physical danger; he needs refining, but there’s time for that).

– Good positional inter-change by NE; if RBNY’s man-marking, this has got to be confusing the hell out of them.

– Santino Quaranta (RBNY) is out for the season? Hang it up, son…hang it up.

– New guy for RBNY: (something, something) Doe. Just came on while I was taking notes.

76th Minute: Carlos Mendes (RBNY) comes on for Reyna; hmmm…a little safe, but it could work. Stammler for Reyna adds some mobility, Mendes should help solidify RBNY’s back (ha, ha, ha…oh, this is fine irony).

– Twellman’s playing like a thug; first he levels Chris Leitch, then he gets Jeff Parke.

GOAL! OWN GOAL!! Oh, god…hide the children. Jon Conway (RBNY) misplays a Mendes back pass; Mendes hit it hard, but WTF?! Hmmm…(seeing the replay) that’s on Conway.

– Laying supine out there right now, RBNY is. Wow…Keystone Cops defending…Keystone Cops with blinders on.

84th Minute: Joe Vide (RBNY) takes a shot; too early for that kind of range, desperation.

85th Minute: too late for Mike Magee (RBNY sub); Arena waited too long.

And, after that, I lost interest. All in all, this was a plug ugly game. Neither side covered themselves in glory. But NY’s defense contains the seeds of their season’s undoing. New England, on the other hand, has just enough…but that’s a thin margin for winning it all.

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