New York Soccer: Anderson

Rapid Reax: Manchester United 6, Cosmos 0

August, 5, 2011
The New York Cosmos have stated that joining MLS is their ultimate goal. Now they have something in common with the Seattle Sounders.

In the spirit of the man being honored for his ruthless form for the Red Devils, Manchester United decimated the first American club to ever play at Old Trafford as the New York Cosmos dropped a 6-0 decision in the Paul Scholes Testimonial on Friday in their first professional match in 27 years.

Friday's man of the hour played a key role in the first two goals in a game whose outcome rarely seemed in doubt after the first whistle. Scholes opened the scoring in the 9th minute by launching a rocket from 25 yards out before tucking the ball inside the upper 90 of the near post. After Cosmos Academy West phenom Marvin Iraheta brought down Man U winger Ashley Young in the box, Wayne Rooney took the ensuing penalty at the request of Scholes and ricocheted his shot off the top cross bar for a 28th minute goal for a 2-0 lead that Man U took into halftime.

The scoring floodgates opened in the second half as Anderson scored a one-timer in the 51st minute after the Brazilian midfielder executed a give-and-go exchange with Danny Welbeck to beat the makeshift Cosmos back line for goal number three. Welbeck later picked up a failed clearance near the spot to score goal number four.

Mame Biram Diouf collected a double by putting a ball past Chad Calderone's feet in the 68th minute and picking up an Anderson through ball on the right flank and sprinting down the wing before taking an easy strike just outside the six-yard box that deflected off Calderone in the 74th minute for goal number six.

Play of the Game: The Decision to Play. When the Cosmos signed on to face Manchester United on their own turf, they likely didn't intend to mimic the 7-0 drubbing delivered to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field by the Red Devils on July 20.

That said, the Man U massacre still serves two purposes for the club aspiring to join Major League Soccer. First, even the loss gives the Cosmos gravitas as the Manchester United spotlight adds an air of authenticity to the festivities. They didn't get beaten by just anyone, and there was not much of an expectation of an upset considering how the Cosmos patched together their squad with faded English Premier League stars and Cosmos Academy prospects and gave them two practices to find a suitable form.

Second, it shows that the Cosmos have juice to make this happen. They didn't book the match through Soccer United Marketing. They didn't enter a tournament which happened to feature the Red Devils. The Cosmos booked a match with one of the premier clubs in the world with their limited resources and the name recognition of Pelé and Cosmos Director of Soccer Eric Cantona.

It's a moral victory, but even that's a first for a club that hasn't played a competitive match since 1984.

Think of the Children. Though he had a wide array of elite talent at his disposal, Cantona elected to start four of the U-23 players that made trip across the Atlantic. Along with the 18-year-old Iraheta, Cantona selected defender Yannick Reyering, midfielder Dane Murphy, and forward Stefan Dimitrov saw significant time against the Red Devils' first team. Calderone came in after halftime to replace a beleaguered 'keeper Brad Friedel, though the backup keeper with New York roots inevitably allowed twice as many goals as the Cosmos starter.

Stake Your Claim. In a pre-match ceremony, Pelé presented Scholes with a #10 New York Cosmos jersey bearing the English midfielder's name. Scholes made his number 18 famous during his Red Devils tenure, but the Cosmos jersey number is that of the presenter who became synonymous with the iconic #10 jersey during his playing days with the Brazilian national team, Santos, and, of course, later with the Cosmos.

Ready for More? Manchester United will now complete its final preparations before kicking off in the FA Community Shield match against Manchester City this weekend.

As for the Cosmos, their itinerary isn't quite so clear after they return stateside. A rumored 40th anniversary match to be held in New York City this fall may still be in the works, while the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Friday that the Cosmos received an invitation to participate in the inaugural Vegas Winter Kick tournament on February 25 against an undetermined opponent.

No league. No team. No players. No opponents. No schedule. Ladies and gentlemen, these are your New York Cosmos.

Did Backe's subs kill MLS All-Star Game chances?

July, 28, 2011
Even with the odds stacked in favor of Manchester United on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe gave the MLS All-Stars a reason to keep their heads held high at halftime.

Despite two moments of individual brilliance by Anderson and All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Park Ji-Sung creating a 2-0 hole for the MLS All-Stars after the first 45 minutes, Backe’s decision to employ a 4-3-3 formation ultimately lent itself well to the star-studded squad. The best of MLS – led by the dynamic designated player duo of Thierry Henry and team captain David Beckham – maintained an edge in possession and created ample scoring chances.

Then a funny thing happened. Backe, who notoriously shies away from making significant substitutions in Red Bulls matches, decided to make his first mass substitution to open the second half. In came Nick LaBrocca, Chris Wondolowski, and Backe’s inclination to let all of the All-Stars get meaningful minutes while out went Henry, Shalrie Joseph, and the touch passing that sparked the MLS attack throughout the first half.

“We could probably have played the same team 15-20 minutes more,” said Backe. “It wouldn’t have made a huge difference in the second half. I could have had a little bit more possession but we picked up two good chances – Omar Bravo had a phenomenal chance to score after a rebound. Normally, you can say that too many subs can kill a game but we decided to do 4 or 5 including the goalie at halftime, two subs after 60 and then after 80. We didn’t kill the game with that.”

But they did. Manchester United, who kept their starting XI intact for the first 15 minutes of the second half, took advantage of the change in MLS personnel and the lack of cohesion that came with it. The Red Devils completed twice as many passes as the MLS All-Stars in the period prior to Dimitar Berbatov’s dagger in the 52nd minute while the MLS All-Stars struggled to establish its offensive momentum and basically resorted to lobbing long balls into the attacking third to no avail.

Backe had already stated at Monday’s press conference that he intended to give all of the All-Stars meaningful minutes at some point in the match, acquiescing to the American spirit of letting all of the fans see their stars play on one of MLS’s biggest stages – competitive match be damned.

Still, the best of MLS showed an organic cohesion in the first 45 minutes that few expected, considering the truncated practice schedule afforded to Backe to establish a form worthy of the lofty expectations of kicking off against Manchester United.

“The last time I played in the MLS All-Star Game, the team came together,” said Beckham. “We played well. You clicked. I think, especially in the first half, showed that if you’re a good enough player, you can just come together and you just play. We didn’t have enough time together, but that’s the way it is. That’s part of being the All-Star team.”

Does it have to be that way? Couldn’t Backe have eased in his substitutes to let each player acclimate to the run of play rather than throwing back-ups to the wolves every 20 minutes?

Ultimately, Backe was right in that keeping the starters on an extra 15-20 minutes would not have changed the final score. A comeback win against the defending English Premier League champions seemed unlikely from the outset and doubly so after Park’s goal before halftime, but the opportunity for the MLS All-Stars to tally a goal and save face against one of the best clubs in the world felt just as inevitable.

Soccer fans around the world woke up this morning to the box score that Manchester United defeated Beckham’s and Henry’s merry band of MLS All-Stars handily, which is what everyone expected and surprised no one. MLS gains a bit of notoriety from the match, which is negated by seeing the league’s best receive a drubbing from the Red Devils. The match only makes waves in the global soccer scene if MLS wins, but it's probably wise to not try to dig for any deeper meanings from what is ultimately an exhibition match.

The final result was predictable, but it didn’t have to end the way it did.

Backe could have substituted a better finish.