New York Soccer: Bouna Coundoul

Rapid Reaction: Red Bulls 2, FC Dallas 0

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
11:11
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A second-half strike by Joel Lindpere helped a shorthanded Red Bulls side rise to the semifinal round of the 2011 MLS Playoffs following a 2-0 win over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Wednesday evening.

Lindpere threaded the FCD back line near the penalty spot and converted a Mehdi Ballouchy cross in the 61st minute to net the game winner and lift the Red Bulls out of the Wild Card round and into a home-and-home series against the Supporters Shield winner, the Los Angeles Galaxy. Thierry Henry provided an insurance goal in stoppage time by tapping in a rebound from his own shot off FCD 'keeper Kevin Hartman in the 98th minute to seal the win for the visiting side.

Lindpere's goal also came about despite a shaky effort from a Red Bulls attacking corps that only controlled the run of play in fits and starts. New York registered six shots on target from 13 attempts against a relentless home side, with a Henry shot before halftime that sailed over the top crossbar representing the Red Bulls' best scoring chance preceding Lindpere's goal.

However, FC Dallas once again struggled to turn their many chances created into pressure on Red Bulls 'keeper Frank Rost. FCD created seven shots on target from 23 attempts with midfielders Brek Shea and Martin Chavez leading the way with three and five attempts respectively but only one shot on target between them. That duo fell behind FCD defender Jackson, who led the way with four of the club's seven shots on target and firing away from inside and outside the penalty area.

Play of the Game: Solli Sees Red. New York held on for the win, but they needed to do it a man down for the final 10 minutes courtesy of a red card awarded to right fullback Jan Gunnar Solli.

With Colombian defender Jair Benitez obstructing his run, Solli conceded a ball to FCD midfielder Daniel Cruz near the center circle in the 79th minute. In an attempt to make up for his own miscue, the Norwegian fullback immediately sprinted and dived from behind into Daniel Hernandez. Solli's slide brought Hernandez to the ground and brought the red card out of referee Ricardo Salazar's pocket.

It didn't affect the final result, but it left New York in danger of blowing the lead in the game's final moments just as they have so many times in their league-tying 16 draws during the 2011 regular season. It also triggers an automatic one-game suspension for Solli, who will now miss the first leg of the home-and-home series against the Galaxy and leave Red Bulls coach Hans Backe searching for his replacement on short notice.

Zero. That's how many goals Frank Rost allowed in collecting his first MLS postseason clean sheet and his sixth shutout of the season. Rost also earned his first career clean sheet in MLS play in the Red Bulls' 1-0 win at FC Dallas on September 17.

Free Falling. FC Dallas hoped to repeat the run that left them as the MLS Cup runners-up in 2010, but failed to find the form that kept them near the top of the table in the early goings of the 2011 regular season. FCD coach Schellas Hyndman saw his side sink to a 2-8 finish in all competition since losing to the Red Bulls in September.

Five for Fighting. Backe couldn't do much to counter having to play the final minutes of Wednesday's match with 10 men, but he did not leave himself with many options on his own bench. The Red Bulls coach picked five players -- Ballouchy, Juan Agudelo, Stephane Auvray, Carlos Mendes, and reserve 'keeper Bouna Coundoul -- to ride the pine in Dallas and see their teammates advance to victory.

Backe indicated to MLSsoccer.com's Jason Saghini before the match that he may intend to put fresh legs on the field in next weekend's match against the Galaxy. But how many of them would come from the Red Bulls reserves that didn't make the trip to Dallas?

As the lowest living seed in the MLS Playoffs, New York's playoff path will run through Red Bull Arena next Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes) but against a star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy side that will be a lot healthier than the club's prior visit to Harrison earlier this month.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Sporting KC

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
10:22
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An MLS playoff opportunity will knock on the door in Kansas City this afternoon. Are the Red Bulls ready to answer it?

The New York Red Bulls make their inaugural visit to Livestrong Sporting Park to kick off against Sporting Kansas City in an afternoon match rife with playoff implications. New York arrives with its playoff destiny in its own hands following a 2-0 win over a beleaguered Los Angeles Galaxy side on Oct. 4, though the red-hot Red Bulls side that had won three of its last five contests needs to regain form following an 11-day hiatus due to the international break.

The Red Bulls also lead the regular season series over SKC after Luke Rodgers scored the game-winner in a 1-0 result at Red Bull Arena on April 30.

Sporting Kansas City comes home looking for better results following a stretch of accruing three draws in four matches. They arrive in shaky form after quickly conceding an equalizer following a go-ahead goal by Kevin Ellis in their international friendly against Mexican powerhouse C.D. Guadalajara last Wednesday, though Teal Bunbury netted a late equalizer of his own in SKC's MLS regular season match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 1.

The Houston Dynamo (11-9-13, 46 pts) did their job in boosting the Red Bulls' playoff profile with a win on Friday night that delivered a near-fatal blow to the postseason chances of their opponent, the Portland Timbers (11-14-7, 40 pts). A New York (9-7-16, 43 pts) win coupled with a D.C. United loss (9-11-11, 38 pts) would put the Red Bulls in position to effectively clinch a playoff berth as they control tiebreakers over Portland and D.C. It would also vault them over Sporting KC (11-9-12, 45 pts) and into an Eastern Conference automatic berth if the Columbus Crew (12-12-8, 44 pts) lose or draw on Saturday.

Who Wants It More? New York's not the only club playing with playoff aspirations on Saturday, as a Red Bulls loss would clinch a playoff berth for Sporting. SKC's footing may be a little surer than the Red Bulls, but a loss at home would surely deal a major blow to any club's playoff chances at such a late stage of the season.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe continues to preach the tenets of "cynical soccer," a possession-driven style similar to the Italian Catenaccio system but with a stronger emphasis on playing keep away rather than for keeps, while Sporting coach Peter Vemes's 4-3-3 system caters to a more attack-friendly, possession-oriented offense. Backe's side will make it as hard as possible for SKC to create pressure in the attacking third, but SKC needs to not leave themselves vulnerable to the counter by making a mistake. Will either side blink?

Key Matchup: Ream vs. Bravo. Saturday will be Tim Ream's first chance to move on from the gaffe which created the Ecuador scoring chance that sent the U.S. Men's National Team to a 1-0 loss at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. Unlike under Jurgen Klinsmann's system, Ream won't come on as a substitute on Saturday -- he'll be expected to anchor a Red Bulls back line against a possession-savvy SKC attack.

Ream's first chance at redemption will come by marking a world-class striker in Omar Bravo. The Mexican forward shares the team lead in goals scored with fellow forward Kei Kemara at nine, though Bravo reached the total despite missing five matches in the early part of the season due to a sports hernia.

Support will come for Ream and the Red Bulls' back line in the form of Stephen Keel and Bravo's Mexican national team peer in Rafael Marquez, but the spotlight will shine brightly on the 24-year-old center back. Someone has to get in the way of an SKC attack that's been shutout only once in MLS regular season play since June, and Ream will once again be charged with taking up those reins.

30. That's how many points Sporting Kansas City has accumulated in their new home at Livestrong Sporting Park, which is the second-highest total in the Eastern Conference (the Crew lead with 32 points) and fourth-highest in all of MLS. The Red Bulls have 16 points on the road, but 10 of those came from draws.

For a Red Bulls side that needs to keep winning to keep their playoff plans within their own control, they'll need to buck a couple of trends if they hope to win at one of the toughest places to play in the league -- a place that wasn't anyone's home until SKC's 11th match of the season.

Rost Rested. No Red Bulls player benefited more from the international break than goalkeeper Frank Rost. With his international duty days far behind him, Rost had eleven days to rest his legs and recuperate from any lingering effects of his quad injury following an intense five-game stretch over three weeks that saw the German netminder collect three wins and three clean sheets in the end.

His recent play has erased any lingering doubts about Red Bulls sporting director Erik Solér's decision to use a designated player slot in net and quieted any debate that reserve 'keeper Bouna Coundoul should be starting.

Going Streaking. Red Bulls team captain Thierry Henry heads to Kansas City mired in a three-way tie in the Golden Boot race. The French striker has scored in his club's last two matches to draw level at 14 goals with D.C. United midfielder and former Red Bull Dwayne De Rosario and Quakes striker Chris Wondolowski, with the latter netting a double against the New England Revolution last Saturday to vault into the race.

RBNY Notes: Henry concentrating on good momentum for MLS Playoffs push

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
12:18
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The MLS Playoff picture is often murky, with both conferences vying for the same playoff spots while clubs kick off with different totals of games played. In one week, the Red Bulls' postseason chances look long. The next, they're back in the driver's seat

Watching the scoreboard is a natural temptation at this time of year, but doing so does not bring the Red Bulls any closer to a postseason berth. The players can see the comings-and-goings in the playoff standings -- which recently changed again following a Philadelphia Union win on Thursday -- but team captain Thierry Henry recognizes that the focus for his side needs to remain singular over the final four matches.

"We just have to do what we can do and not concentrate on others," said Henry. "Maybe that’s what we were doing sometimes during the season and looking at it and saying, ‘Oh, we're still just two points ahead of them or three.’ You just have to go and take care of yourself and see what you can do. At the end, we don’t have to count anymore. We will see who will go through or not."

The Red Bulls see themselves with a tenuous grasp on the final wild card berth, clinging to a one-point lead over a D.C. United side with a game in hand following their loss to Philly on Thursday. That's of no concern to Henry, who feels his Red Bulls are finally rolling at the right time.

"We are in a good momentum," said Henry. "Before the three games we had in Dallas, Salt Lake, and Portland, if someone said we were going to win two out of three – the end was to win three out of three – we would have been happy about that."

"(It's) kind of weird because we had a hard one in the middle of that against Salt Lake, but we are in a good momentum and we have to try to carry on."

Getting the Call. The Red Bulls learned on Thursday that six of their squad would once again receive the call of duty for their national sides next week. New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo and defender Tim Ream will once again suit up for the United States Men's National Team, while defenders Rafael Marquez (Mexico) and Roy Miller (Costa Rica), midfielder Dane Richards (Jamaica), and goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul (Senegal) will also see international action.

Depending on where you stand regarding Marquez's level of ability these days, the biggest depth decision facing Red Bulls coach Hans Backe these days may lie between the posts. German 'keeper Frank Rost has collected two clean sheets in the club's last three matches, but now faces two matches in four days against Toronto FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

If Rost is showing any rust from his long layoff following his recent quad injury, Backe may need to call upon his Senegalese shot stopper for his starting XI against TFC. Coundoul will not be available to play against the Galaxy at Red Bull Arena next Tuesday, leaving Backe to either start Rost twice on short rest or go with a reserve goalkeeper in Alex Horwath or Mike Konopka against the best of the Western Conference.

Back Problems. Backe announcer earlier this week that Miller should be available to play this weekend at Toronto, but the same cannot be said for Chris Albright. The MLS veteran fullback endured a strained calf in the early moments of the match against Real Salt Lake, leaving Backe uncertain about his availability for the stretch run.

“[The medical staff] said it looks better than they thought,” Backe said to MLSsoccer.com. “[But] it could be the whole season, we just don’t know.”

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
9:21
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Things are about to get Real for a Red Bulls side bearing renewed postseason aspirations.

New York returns home on Wednesday to kick off at Red Bull Arena against red-hot Real Salt Lake. A go-ahead goal by Luke Rodgers and Frank Rost's clean sheet helped the Red Bulls restore a modicum of respect with a 1-0 win over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday, but New York is still smarting from a comprehensive 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on August 6 that reversed the goodwill of an Emirates Cup win in late July.

Real Salt Lake is rolling in recent weeks as a four-game winning streak has the Claret-and-Cobalt on the periphery of the Supporters' Shield race. Nat Borchers headed home a Kyle Beckerman free kick to convert the goal needed by RSL in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park last Saturday. RSL has scored six goals in that four-game regular season stretch, with Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio playing prominent roles in establishing the club's winning ways.

A win would help boost the Red Bulls (7-6-15, 36 pts) further into the playoff picture as they prepare for their final six matches of the regular season. D.C. United (8-8-10, 34 pts) and the Portland Timbers (10-12-6, 36 pts) are two MLS clubs in action Wednesday that hope to lay claim on the final wild card berth in New York's possession. Meanwhile, the third-place Philadelphia Union (9-7-12, 39 pts) and fourth-place Houston Dynamo (9-9-12, 39 pts) remain idle in the chase for the Eastern Conference's final automatic playoff berth.

Can't Find a Beckerman. If RSL coach Jason Kreis hopes for a repeat performance of his club's thrashing of the Red Bulls in August, he'll need to do so without the services of his team captain. Kyle Beckerman will watch Wednesday's match from the sidelines as he serves a one-game suspension for his accumulated yellow card total.

Kreis could turn to the newly-acquired Yordany Álvarez or Jean Alexandre as well as pull Will Johnson or Ned Grabavoy back into Beckerman's holding midfield role, but none of them can be expected to replicate the contributions of RSL's dynamic playmaker.

Beckerman may need the rest after appearing in all of the club's 26 regualr season matches this season in addition to CONCACAF Champions League and U.S. Men's National Team commitments, but he also has one goal and two assist in the club's recent winning streak and also assisted on two of RSL's three goals scored against the Red Bulls in August. You don't just replace that production with anyone.

Key Matchup: Tainio vs. the Diamond. Kreis will undoubtedly call upon his vaunted diamond 4-4-2 formation at the outset of Wednesday's match to establish RSL's possession prowess and dictate a pace that passed the Red Bulls into submission in August. Once Kreis decides on how to replace Beckerman, he'll work quick to implement the game plan of providing service to Saborio, Fabian Espindola, or Luis Gil up top.

As Steve Davis points out over at MLSsoccer.com, Red Bulls holding midfielder Teemu Tainio dropped back a bit more than usual to support a patchwork back line that appeared porous in recent weeks. It worked well as New York withstood an FC Dallas side that generated three times as many attempts on goal as the Red Bulls but only completed three shots on target. Even if Tainio refrained from his usual linking role to provide support to the young center back tandem of Tim Ream and Stephen Keel, it helped subdue FCD's constant control of the run of play.

Why wouldn't Red Bulls coach Hans Backe try it again? RSL proved its passing prowess and finishing touch in the first leg of the regular season encounters, but Tainio missed that match due to flu-like symptoms. He can't help the Red Bulls forwards get behind one of the best back lines in MLS, but his presence can keep the Red Bulls on the defensive in the best sense of the word.

Comeback Kids. Except for an injury to Roy Miller that will keep the Costa Rican fullback on the sidelines, Backe will have a as close to a full roster as he's had in some time for Wednesday's match.

Rafael Marquez and Jan Gunnar Solli will return to action after serving one-game suspensions, while Thierry Henry is expected to be available after tending to an Achilles tendon injury that kept the French striker off the pitch against FC Dallas. Toss in successful encores for Rodgers as well as Rost and Backe has more answers than questions on his depth chart for a change.

New York won't be the only club getting good news from the medical staff, though. Argentine playmaker Javier Morales, who hasn't appeared in a regular season match for RSL since breaking his ankle in May, and RSL left back and Babylon, NY native Chris Wingert will travel with the Claret-and-Cobalt and may be available to Kreis in at least a substitute capacity.

Rost Redux? Rost earned due praise for his strong outing against FC Dallas, but lost in the hysteria is that last Saturday's match was his first since a poor showing against Real Salt Lake in August that ultimately came about due to the German shot stopper's right quadriceps tear.

He should be in better form for Wednesday's rematch, but the Red Bulls have four matches scheduled in the next 15 days. Backe may not let his third designated player mind the net for every minute of that stretch if he has any lingering concerns about Rost's recovery, which could open the door to a Bouna Coundoul spot start or substitution at a moment's notice. That likely won't come on Wednesday, but it could come more sooner than later.

Seven Up. While their ugly 1-0 win over FC Dallas is a win nonetheless, it remains to be seen what New York can do for an encore. Since April 30, the Red Bulls have averaged only one win in every seven regular season matches. Considering that New York only has six matches left on their 2011 schedule, they can't let that trend or anything close to it continue.

RBNY Recap: Rost saves Red Bulls' playoff chances in win over FC Dallas

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
11:05
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New York finally rekindled its winning ways courtesy of a little R&R.

R&R, in this case, refers to contributions of Luke Rodgers and Frank Rost which boosted the Red Bulls to the club's first victory since July 6 in a 1-0 win over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas on Saturday. The international duo made their first starts since recovering from their respective injuries -- Rodgers with plantar fascitis, Rost with a right quadriceps tear -- and played key roles in the result, with the English striker finishing a Juan Agudelo cross in the 36th minute for the game's only goal and the German shot stopper collecting a clean sheet for his first win in MLS.

In addition to a morale boost, the three points from their long-awaited win over FCD also gives the Red Bulls (7-6-15, 36 pts) an immediate boost back into the playoff picture. According to MLSsoccer.com's playoff standings, New York reclaimed control of the final wild card berth as their +5 goal differential gives them the playoff tiebreaker over the Portland Timbers (10-12-6, 36 pts). D.C. United (8-8-10, 34 pts), who previously held the final berth prior to the start of action in Week 27 and has two games in hand on the Red Bulls, conceded a 3-0 defeat to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.

The Red Bulls also kept pace in their pursuit for an Eastern Conference automatic playoff berth, as both the third-place Philadelphia Union (9-7-12, 39 pts) and fourth-place Houston Dynamo (9-9-12, 39 pts) collected wins on Saturday as well.

Give It a Go. New York knew of their shorthanded status before they boarded their Dallas charter plane on Friday. Rafael Marquez and Jan Gunnar Solli would not join them as they served one-game suspensions. Thierry Henry and Roy Miller also stayed home as they nursed injuries.

However, four questionable players who made the trip produced answers for the Red Bulls on Saturday night. The return of Rodgers and Rost directly factored into the result, while Tim Ream's recovery from his injury and Teemu Tainio's return from a one-game suspension helped stablize a patchwork defense charged with keeping a beleaguered FC Dallas side -- FCD winger Brek Shea was suspended, David Ferreira and Martin Chavez were hurt -- at bay.

Play of the Game: Rost's Saves on Santos. It's not hard for the Red Bulls to knock their opponents down, as they've taken early leads against MLS sides all season. When Rodgers collected Agudelo's cross and hit a grounder inside the far post past a diving George John and a helpless Kevin Hartman in net, it wasn't pretty but it was never beyond the realm of possibility.

Instead, it's getting opposing teams to stay down that's the trick. Rost, who made his first start since August 6 over a recently-effective Bouna Coundoul, made that happen with his best performance as a Red Bull, as he kept a clean sheet against an FC Dallas side that controlled the run of play for huge swaths of Saturday's match. FC Dallas accrued 19 attempts on goal as compared to New York's six, but only generated three shots on target for their efforts. FCD forward Maicon Santos created a team-leading eight attempts against a Red Bulls back line that appeared porous at times, but Rost saved Santos's only shot on target while his positioning helped cut down angles and force the Brazilian's shots wide of the net.

A solid defensive effort kept FCD off the scoreboard, but Rost eliminated any chance for a soft goal from stealing Rodgers's thunder.

Moroccan Meddling. Unlike last Saturday when Red Bulls coach Hans Backe sent his shorthanded side's attack into overdrive with a late Agudelo substitution, he did the exact opposite with a swap of Rodgers for Mehdi Ballouchy at halftime. The Moroccan midfielder's arrival effectively sent the Red Bulls into defensive mode, as evidenced by FCD's early attacking surge tapering off in the second half.

As previously mentioned, New York only created six attempts on Saturday night. Five of those came before halftime, with only a Joel Lindpere miss at point-blank range in the 64th minute to show for their efforts. Meanwhile, Ballouchy added nothing to the Red Bulls attack while his role up top muted any passing distribution he can typically bring to any match. It was a risky call by Backe to protect his recovering English forward at the expense of any chance at creating an insurance goal, but ultimately paid off through the efforts of New York's back line and Rost.

205. According to the Opta Chalkboards, that's how many passes New York completed on Saturday at Pizza Hut Park. That's far and away the lowest number of completed passes this season for a Red Bulls side that typically accrues 350-400 completed passes with ease. It's also over 100 fewer than the previous low of 308 completed passes accrued in a 2-2 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on July 2. So if you're curious as to why FC Dallas claimed a 59.5%-to-40.5% advantage in possession on Saturday night, start here.

Slump Buster. New York's win over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park gives the Red Bulls their first win outside the Eastern time zone in regular season play in almost a year. New York is now 1-2-8 in games west of Ohio, and have one more match -- October 15 at Sporting Kansas City -- of their final six that will require them to wind their watches upon arrival.

New York now heads home to Red Bull Arena looking to exact revenge on Wednesday against a Real Salt Lake side that delivered a decisive 3-0 win to the Red Bulls in the first leg of their regular season encounters on August 6 at Rio Tinto Stadium. First kick is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at FC Dallas

September, 17, 2011
9/17/11
8:49
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Sixteen draws and what do you get?

Another week older and deeper in trouble if the New York Red Bulls can't successfully mess with Texas this weekend.

The Red Bulls will take their umpteenth chance at collecting the club's first win since July as they head west to face FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas on Saturday. New York kicks off in search of the much-needed victory that eluded them in the first leg of their regular season encounters against FCD. Thierry Henry scored a brilliant equalizer in the waning moments of that match to answer a second-half brace by FCD midfielder Martin Chavez and sent a shorthanded Red Bulls side off to the All-Star break with a 2-2 draw for their efforts.

New York also salvaged a 1-1 draw last Saturday at Red Bull Arena against an expansion Vancouver Whitecaps side that still lacks its first-ever MLS regular season win on the road. Juan Agudelo came on as a substitute to finish a Rafael Marquez cross and answer a one-man highlight reel goal by Davide Chiumiento, sending the Red Bulls running from home with the club's fifteenth draw of the season.

FC Dallas should be so lucky to collect that kind of result considering their recent form. Despite having the third-best record by points in all of MLS with 46, FCD has lost three of their last five matches including a 2-0 loss against a rebuilding New England Revolution side at Gillette Stadium last Saturday. They're also in the midst of a short work week after failing to make a very early Daniel Cruz goal stand up in a 1-1 draw of a CONCACAF Champions League group stage match on Wednesday at home against Panamanian side Tauro FC.

According to MLSsoccer.com, a decisive Portland Timbers (10-12-6, 36 pts) win on Friday evening over the lowly Revs temporarily pushes the Red Bulls (6-6-15, 33 pts) into the ten spot of the overall league standings. With two games in hand, D.C. United (8-7-10, 34 pts) also sits in between the Red Bulls and the final playoff spot. The Union (8-7-12, 36 pts) maintain a three-point edge over New York to keep hold of the final automatic Eastern Conference playoff berth, though both D.C. and the Houston Dynamo (8-9-12, 36 pts) stand between the Red Bulls and Philadelphia.

Exiguous XI. Though Red Bulls coach Hans Backe notoriously keeps a short bench at his disposal for most matches, it's not entirely his choice to travel to Dallas shorthanded this weekend. Backe's back line will miss the likes of Marquez and Jan Gunnar Solli due to suspension as well as Roy Miller and possibly Tim Ream due to injury, while his offense could lack the forward pairing of Henry and Luke Rodgers as that duo nurse injuries that arose in training earlier this week.

Those absences should create playing time for young playmaker Juan Agudelo up top and Red Bulls rookie defender Stephen Keel, who is expected to make his first appearance since coming on as a sub on August 6 at Real Salt Lake.

Key Matchup: NY's Wide Midfielders vs. FCD's Press. In the first leg of their regular season matches, FCD coach Schellas Hyndman saw his side apply a press that paralyzed the Red Bulls attack while inadvertently muting their own offensive efforts. A late substitute opened up the FCD offense, culminating in Chavez netting two goals in short order.

Meanwhile, New York succumbed to a lesser-caliber press applied by the 'Caps last weekend with a back line not known for its depth. Service was sparse for Henry and Dane Richards up top until Agudelo reinforced the attack with his late arrival as a sub. Save a late shot on goal against a 'Caps defense in prevent mode, Joel Lindpere was present in name only for the majority of the match.

With Henry and Rodgers bearing injuries and possibly missing Saturday's match, someone besides Agudelo will need to step up and step into a Red Bulls attack that hasn't scored an insurance goal in months. Richards could start up top if Henry and/or Rodgers can't go, but Lindpere and possibly Mehdi Ballouchy could be looked upon to join the attacking corps and create traffic in the box.

Price to Pay. One injury New York does not need to accommodate any further is the one to German goalkeeper Frank Rost. Backe cleared Rost to play this weekend in Dallas after reviewing his form in training this week, which could once again bump Bouna Coundoul back to the bench despite a recent run of solid play.

The MLS Players Union recently released its updated payroll earlier this month, which reflects that Rost's designated player status helps him make three times what MLS and the Red Bulls pay their Senegalese shot stopper. New York paid a premium to bring in Rost as a difference maker, but would Backe have made the same decision considering Coundoul's recent successes -- including two consecutive draws in MLS play and a shutout for his native Senegal -- if his German 'keeper and Coundoul collected similar sums?

Zero. While New York's hoping to capture their first win in over two months at Pizza Hut Park, that goose egg represents another streak the Red Bulls hope to put to bed this weekend.

The Red Bulls remain winless this season in away matches outside of their own time zone, with nothing but an 0-3-8 record to show for it. In fact, it has been almost a year since New York has won a regular season match west of Ohio. The Red Bulls last won an away match in a time zone other than Eastern last September 24 in a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. They also claimed a 1-0 result at Buck Shaw Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes in the first leg of the MLS playoff quarterfinals last October, only to concede that lead in the second leg before losing 3-2 on aggregate to the Quakes.

Heavy Hearts. If FC Dallas kicks off in a melancholy mood, it's not necessarily due to their recent form in league play.

Saturday's match represents the club's first home match since the loss of Dallas stalwart Bobby Rhine, who passed away on September 5 at the age of 35. Rhine joined the then-Dallas Burn as a player in 1999 and later served in the club's front office and as the team's color commentator on televisions broadcasts, leaving an indelible mark on the soccer legacy of an original MLS side.

FC Dallas will honor Rhine with a pregame ceremony that will include Rhine's family and MLS commissioner Don Garber and a video montage at halftime, while the FCD players will wear black armbands to honor their former forward. FCD fullback Zach Loyd also changed his jersey number from 19 to 12 for the remainder of the season, as the former number belonged to Rhine during his playing days with the club.

FC Dallas endured another loss in recent days as U18 Academy player Jose Perez was killed in a car accident on September 13.

RBNY Recap: Agudelo scores as ref leaves 10-man Red Bulls fit to be tied vs. 'Caps

September, 11, 2011
9/11/11
1:00
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For a club with playoff aspirations and a meager eight games left to realize them, New York likely did not aspire to keep level with the worst of MLS.

And yet, that's where a shorthanded Red Bulls side found themselves as they collected their 15th draw of the season in a 1-1 stalemate against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Juan Agudelo tapped in a long Rafael Marquez cross in the 68th minute to answer a brilliant first-half strike by Vancouver's Davide Chiumiento and salvage the draw for the home side.

According to MLSsoccer.com's Playoff Standings, the draw pushes New York (6-6-15, 33 pts) out of the playoff picture as D.C. United (8-7-10, 34 pts) snuck past them into fifth place in the Eastern Conference following a win over Chivas USA. The Philadelphia Union (8-7-12, 36 pts) widened their lead for the East's final automatic playoff berth by one point following a scoreless draw against the Portland Timbers, while the Houston Dynamo (8-9-11, 35 pts) idled in fourth place following a loss to Sporting Kansas City (10-8-10, 40 pts).

While no Eastern Conference teams created significant distance between themselves and the Red Bulls during the club's extended break, New York is continuing to struggle with establishing a home-field advantage. D.C. United, the newest team in the Red Bulls' postseason path, now sits above them in the standings and with two games in hand.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe previously stated that it would take 45 points to clinch a playoff spot, meaning New York must now win four or collect three wins and three draws in their remaining seven games to reach that target. They now have to get those wins with only four remaining home games over their final seven, and with D.C. comfortably in their way.

Crying Foul. It wasn't the aggregate or differential in fouls called by referee Terry Vaughn that left New York up in arms about the officiating on Saturday. New York accrued 13 fouls as compared to 8 by the 'Caps.

Rather, it was the validity of the important calls that hurt the Red Bulls' manpower both on Saturday and preceding next week's match at F.C. Dallas. Vaughn issued Marquez a yellow card in the 31st minute for bumping Chiumiento from behind, but didn't issue a second yellow in the 44th minute for the Mexican defender's tough tackle on Eric Hassli.

The first yellow card had the same effect as a red card on Marquez's availability for next week as he triggered a suspension for his accumulated yellow cards. But the missed call had ramifications for Jan Gunnar Solli, who received a straight red card moments later for tripping up Camilo on a run. Replays showed that Camilo still had Carlos Mendes to beat before securing a shot on goal, hinting that Vaughn may have booted Solli as a make-up call for the non-call on Marquez.

That chain of events left New York with a shorthanded side for the second-half, doubly so when recalling that Teemu Tainio was already unavailable for Saturday's match due to suspension. Now, New York will be without Marquez and Solli due to suspensions as well as Roy Miller and possibly Frank Rost due to injuries next week.

Play of the Game: Agudelo's Substitution. It's easy to point the finger at Solli's ejection to explain the less-than-desirable result for the Red Bulls, but they had appeared flat to that point and failed to create much pressure against a patchwork 'Caps back line. A glance at the Opta Chalkboards reflects that as a 20-to-9 advantage in recoveries on balls in the middle and attacking thirds shows that the 'Caps forwards applied appropriate pressure while the Red Bulls attackers didn't push up nearly enough.

That did not improve until Backe swapped out the defensive-minded Stephane Auvray for Agudelo. In addition to providing a jolt of energy into the 10-man Red Bulls side, Backe's substitution reflected a positive substitution strategy for a coach who usually shies away from them. He substituted a defender for an attacker. And seven minutes after Backe's call, Agudelo drew his side level.

Backe did it again in the final ten minutes, giving Luke Rodgers his first playing time since July 5 against Toronto FC at the expense of another defensive-minded midfielder in Dax McCarty. That move proved too little too late, but Backe deserves credit for not ordering his team to go into a shell after being down a man. Backe tried to go for the kill -- marking the first time anyone's been able to write those words about these Red Bulls in months.

Clipped Wings. Backe picked a heavy-defensive starting XI, highlighted by McCarty and Auvray starting in the midfield, Marquez playing a hybrid center back/holding midfielder role alongside Tim Ream, and Chris Albright and Carlos Mendes as full backs. That left Solli and Joel Lindpere available to join the attack, but that duo didn't do much to support Thierry Henry and Dane Richards.

New York attempted only five crosses in the first half, with only one connection executed by Solli. They completed two more in the second half -- one by Lindpere, one by Albright -- but not much came about until Agudelo arrived late in the second match. Some of that came from successful pressure by Vancouver, some from a defensive-minded shape by the Red Bulls. All of it made anyone not named Henry or Richards invisible in the attacking end until the final thirty minutes.

Stop the Presses. For as questionable as the officiating and as flat as the Red Bulls appeared at time, the goalkeeping on both sides sparkled all evening. Senegalese shot stopper Bouna Coundoul registered only three saves on the night, but never fell prey to the Bouna Blunders that have plagued him this season. Vancouver's only goal came about from Marquez's lack of marking on Chiumiento, which enabled the 'Caps midfielder to chip up a ball near the penalty spot and whirlwind kick it off the top crossbar for the goal. Goals like that can't get hung around the neck of the 'keeper.

Meanwhile, 'Caps netminder Jay Nolly kept an early surge by the Red Bulls at bay and held firm towards the end, especially on a diving save of a free kick in the 87th minute by Henry. Both goalkeepers deserve credit for keeping their respective sides in Saturday's match.

Zero. That's how many chances the Red Bulls have left to chase the Supporters' Shield this season, as their draw combined with a Los Angeles Galaxy win on Friday night mathematically eliminated New York from the top spot in the league standings.

New York will now pack its bags and head west as they prepare to face F.C. Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas next Saturday. First kick is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

RBNY Recap: Richards rallies Red Bulls to draw level vs. lowly Revs

August, 21, 2011
8/21/11
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Even against the club with the most losses in the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls can't win for losing.

So, New York will have to settle for their 14th draw of the season after salvaging a 2-2 result against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Saturday. Dane Richards provided all of the Red Bulls offense by answering Revs forward Milton Caraglio's first-half brace with a second-half double that included a tap-in of a Joel Lindpere cross for an 87th-minute equalizer by the Jamaican midfielder.

Physicality prevailed as the in-game strategy in a match that saw 35 fouls and eight yellow cards issued by referee Juan Guzman. Revs forward Kenny Mansally gave New York a one-man advantage after the Gambian international received a red card in the 55th minute for accruing two yellow cards on tough fouls.

That advantage was short-lived as Red Bulls midfielder Teemu Tainio also saw red after receiving his second yellow card in 69th minute for a tough tackle from behind on Revs midfielder Shalrie Joseph. Both Mansally and Tainio receive automatic one-game suspensions for their respective red cards and will each miss their club's next regular season match.

The draw pushes New York (6-6-14, 32 pts) further away from the playoff picture as the Houston Dynamo (8-7-11, 35 pts) collected a win on Saturday to leapfrog the Red Bulls, a losing Philadelphia Union (8-6-10, 34 pts) side, and an idle Sporting Kansas City (8-7-9, 33 pts) tp lay claim on the Eastern Conference's second automatic playoff spot. Sporting KC will play Sunday evening at home against sixth-place D.C. United (7-6-10, 31 pts).

French Fried. New York announced shortly before the match that Thierry Henry was unavailable to play due to what the club described as inflammation in the French striker's left Achilles. The club announced via Twitter that Henry's Achilles flared up following Thursday's training session, leaving Red Bulls coach Hans Backe to rest his forward rather than risk further aggravation.

However, Henry has only played in one of New York's matches on turf this season while missing the club's last three opportunities due to absence against Vancouver, suspension at Seattle, and now injury at New England. The Red Bulls captain has made no secret of his disdain for FieldTurf after implying that the away stadium's playing surface might factor into his decision to play.

"Maybe I need to remind you even more,” Henry said to the NY Daily News on July 14. “I think it wasn’t stupid when I told you turf is one of the most severe things I’ve seen for us to play on."

Play of the Game: Richards's First Goal. When Tim Ream zipped a 40-yard lob deep into the Red Bulls' attacking end in the 53rd minute, it wasn't so much strategic as it was desperate. New York had looked flat to that point in the match courtesy of a defense that left one of the lowest-scoring sides in MLS with a two-goal lead at halftime and an offense that struggled to link any passes to the attackers.

However, Richards timed his run perfectly and sprinted behind the Revs back line to receive Ream's lob. The Jamaican international ran unimpeded to the penalty area before striking a right-footed shot past Revs backup 'keeper Bobby Shuttleworth and inside the near post to cut the New England lead to one goal.

It wasn't a sexy goal, but it was exactly what was needed by a Red Bulls club that had not seen an active player not named Henry, Lindpere, or Juan Agudelo score a goal since June 4. New York immediately took control of the run of play and pressed up against a Revs side that kept its shape but couldn't contain the onslaught. Mansally received his red card two minutes after Richards' goal, further fueling the Red Bulls attack until Tainio's sending off 14 minutes later.

Two. Not only is that how many goals Richards scored on Saturday, but it's also how many shots on target both he and the Red Bulls took on Saturday. New England managed a 13-to-8 edge in attempts on goal on Saturday, which accumulated for the Revs even after Mensally was sent off.

Meanwhile, New York's only two attempts after halftime came on Richards's goals, despite controlling the run of play for the majority of the final 30 minutes. New York admittedly lost a man for the final 20 minutes, but this was the same side that created 20 attempts on the struggling Fire side last week.

Bouna Bump. Senegalese shot stopper Bouna Coundoul was ready, willing, and able to stand between the pipes on Saturday and came up big with four saves including a spectacular diving stop in the 61st minute to parry a Benny Feilhaber shot from distance away from net. Coundoul wasn't perfect, but it's tough to hold him responsible for two goals in which his back line ultimately left him out to dry. It was as sharp a night as Coundoul could produce given the lethargy of the the Red Bulls defense in the first half.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place. Saturday's draw extends a winless streak for New York at Gillette Stadium that traces back to June 29, 2002 when the then MetroStars collected a 2-0 win over the Revs. New England has won 12 of their last 17 matches at home against the Red Bulls/MetroStars in regular season and MLS Cup play since New York last claimed victory against their Eastern Conference rival.

New York now heads home to prepare to gaze upon the many stars of the Los Angeles Galaxy including David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and L.A.'s newest acquisition in Irish striker and Tottenham legend Robbie Keane on Sunday, August 28 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3).

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at NE Revolution

August, 20, 2011
8/20/11
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Two original MLS sides renew old rivalries this weekend as the New York Red Bulls ship up to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts to face the New England Revolution on Saturday. New York claimed a rare victory in the first leg of their regular season encounters against New England at Red Bull Arena on June 10 after Thierry Henry deflected a shot off Revs defender Ryan Cochrane for an own goal and followed it with the game winner.

Wins have been hard to come by for a Red Bulls side that settled for a 2-2 draw against the rebuilding Chicago Fire last weekend at Red Bull Arena. Henry and Joel Lindpere had the first and last words respectively on the score sheet, but defensive miscues and poor communication allowed Ghanian forward Dominic Oduro and Argentinean midfielder Sebastian Grazzini to tally a first-half lead and leave New York chasing a draw rather than a much-needed win.

New England comes into Saturday's match with tired legs and spirits low after a stoppage-time strike by Bobby Boswell stole a draw for the visiting Houston Dynamo at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. Despite an early Cochrane goal, the Revs played most of the match on the defensive as the Dynamo controlled the run of play for most of the match and tripled New England's shots on goal before Boswell netted the equalizer.

A D.C. United (7-6-10, 31 pts) draw on Thursday leaves New York (6-6-13, 31 pts) in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and with a tenuous grip on a postseason wild card berth. Houston (7-7-11, 32 pts) stands between the Red Bulls and third-place Sporting Kansas City (8-7-9, 33 pts) for an automatic playoff spot, while the Columbus Crew (10-7-7, 37 pts) and Philadelphia Union (8-5-10, 34 pts) face each other this weekend to establish Eastern Conference supremacy.

'Keep Out. New England will kick off against a potent Red Bulls attack this weekend without longtime 'keeper Matt Reis. Reis received a red card in Wednesday's match against the Dynamo during a stoppage-time scrum for what referee Michael Kennedy described as "use of offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures."

Bobby Shuttleworth will replace the suspended Reis on Saturday, but the 24-year-old shot stopper hasn't started a game since April and isn't heading into the match on the heels of one of the best goalkeeping performances of the season like Reis would have been before getting the heave-ho. If New York can continue the offensive momentum it created against Chicago, it could be a long night for the Revs' backup 'keeper.

Key Matchup: Marquez vs. Feilhaber. While Tim Ream and Roy Miller had the unfortunately distinction of being on camera when the Fire exposed their dysfunctional defensive efforts last Saturday, that did not leave Rafael Marquez above scrutiny.

The Mexican center back was just as out of position as the rest of his back line on those plays and others, inciting murmurs from critics that Marquez isn't rising to the expectations thrust upon a pricey designated player and looks uncomfortable since returning from the hamstring injury he endured during the Gold Cup finale.

If Marquez wants to restore his reputation, he can start by keeping the dynamic Benny Feilhaber at bay. The Revs attacking midfielder did not appear in the first leg of their regular season encounters with the Red Bulls due to international duty with the U.S. Men's National Team, but he'll be there on Saturday looking to create chaos in the box and replace the attacking contributions of injured Revs forward Rajko Lekic.

Keeping Feilhaber in check will involve active marking and frequent communication -- the two things Marquez and his back line were accused of failing to do against the Fire last Saturday.

The Big Hurt. Lekic's availability remains in question as he recovers from a fractured big toe on his right foot, but he's not the only one hurting for the Revs. Cochrane left Wednesday's match with what was described as "concussion symptoms" and will likely miss Saturday's match.

Meanwhile, Bouna Coundoul is expected to get the start in net for the Red Bulls in place of the injured Frank Rost. Jan Gunnar Solli will also miss Saturday's match as he recovers from a right quadriceps strain.

87. That's how many shots on goal taken by the Revs this season, which is the worst total in the league. They also score on a paltry 9.6% of their shots and 29.9% of all shots on goal, which ranks them 11th in MLS in both categories. This is not a recipe for attacking soccer.

Lucky Number Seven. New York's win over the Revs in June ended a seven-game winless streak. The Red Bulls now head into this weekend's matchup in Gillette Stadium with another seven-game winless streak in tow not counting the club's Emirates Cup appearances.

RBNY Notes: Frustration mounts as Red Bulls struggle with defense

August, 17, 2011
8/17/11
9:13
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If the old adage about the best offense being a good defense is accurate, then Red Bulls coach Hans Backe should have no trouble recognizing what to work on ahead of Saturday's match at New England.

It wasn't an entirely poor defensive effort that left New York settling for its 13th draw of the season against the Chicago Fire last weekend. Overall, the Red Bulls defense applied decent pressure, picked off quite a few balls in the Fire's attacking third, and never let the worst team by points in the Eastern Conference open the offensive floodgates at Red Bull Arena.

But that doesn't excuse the mental lapses that cost the Red Bulls their best shot at the club's first win in a month. Defenders Tim Ream and Roy Miller blew an offside trap that left Dominic Oduro wide open for the Fire's first goal, while another breakdown in coverage enabled Chicago to get behind the back line and take a clear strike past the New York's emergency starter in net, Chris Konopka.

"We just need to be better at handling the defending game," said Backe. "With normal, solid defending, you could have avoided both goals. You get a little bit frustrated when you see that kind of move."

The frustration is palpable throughout the club, especially after creating as many offensive chances as it did against the Fire. The Red Bulls simply did not make these kinds of mistakes last year, which leaves midfielder Joel Lindpere concerned that the defense may be regressing rather than improving.

“It has not been the best year for us defensively," said Lindpere. "It’s like two different sides from this year and last year. Last year, I think our team was the best in defense in the league. This year, it went the other way.”

Getting a handle on the defensive disciplinary issues may help the Red Bulls get back in a playoff picture that suddenly finds them on the outside looking in. New York hopes to organize in time to pick apart a Revolution side that claims the third-worst goal differential in the league with -13, but that won't matter if more mistakes in the back undo the progress of the potent Red Bulls attack led by Thierry Henry and his league-leading 12 goals along with Lindpere and Juan Agudelo.

In order to cut down on the mental errors and put up a solid 90 minutes of defensive effort, Red Bulls right back Chris Albright believes the back line needs to be more vocal about staying on the same page.

"We need to be better," said Albright. "Communication’s an issue, just as far as keeping our line and when we’re playing offside and when we’re staying with our runners. That came back to bite us in the last game. Overall, it’s still sort of a new unit with new personnel, so to speak. Obviously myself and Rafa (Marquez) are back after a while. We’ve got to get it together quick and get organized for the next game."

All Fours. All of the clubs running with the Red Bulls for the three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference may have games in hand, but Backe finds a scheduling sign that leaves room for optimism over his side's final nine games.

Backe was quick to point out before Monday's reserve match that four of the six Eastern Conference clubs in play for a playoff spot -- D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City, Columbus Crew, and Philadelphia Union -- have at least four games scheduled against each other or the postseason-pursuing Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo. (Both the Red Bulls and Dynamo only have two games against Eastern Conference playoff contenders.) That means those four clubs will spend a chunk of their remaining games beating each other up for points, which should make it difficult for any of them to run away with the conference.

New York hopes to exploit that battle of attrition to gain ground in the East, but that doesn't mean they can take any of their remaining games for granted.

"We’ve put ourselves in a position where points are imperative, not a luxury," said Albright. "It’s important we get three."

Road to Recovery. New York's definition of being at full strength may need an asterisk for the rest of the season. Backe hinted at a drop-dead date of September 5 for Luke Rodgers, who needs to show his ability to contribute for the club's stretch run or risk being shut down in favor of season-ending surgery to treat the English striker's plantar fasciitis. Frank Rost will join Rodgers in limbo as his status will continue to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis as the German 'keeper recovers from a right quadriceps tear.

That said, Bouna Coundoul is expected to start this Saturday in Foxborough after missing last Saturday's match due to a fever that Backe believes was caused by the Senegalese shot stopper's hectic travel schedule last week. Jan Gunnar Solli should join him if he can train with the first team before Saturday's match.

Ultimately, Backe would just prefer for the seemingly-endless roster shuffle to stop for just a little while.

"It would be nice to try to play with the same team two games in a row," said Backe. "I don’t think we’ve done it since the beginning of the season."

RBNY Recap: Backe buys Red Bulls' playoff chances after 2-2 draw vs. Fire

August, 14, 2011
8/14/11
11:40
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The New York Red Bulls settled for their 13th draw this season against the lowly Chicago Fire in a 2-2 result at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. The draw had the benefit of preventing the Red Bulls from claiming the highest number of ties in league play this season as the Fire also claimed their league-leading 14th draw after the final whistle blew.

Thierry Henry and Joel Lindpere bookended Saturday's score sheet with tallies for the Red Bulls. Henry opened scoring in the 9th minute with his league-leading 12th goal of the season by picking up a Dane Richards pass at the arc and sending a low curler inside the right post. Lindpere answered two first-half Fire strikes in the 63rd minute by volleying a Richards cross inside the left post for the equalizer and the Estonian's 6th goal of the season.

Unfortunately, those two Fire goals left New York settling for the equalizer rather than cementing a much-needed win. Patrick Nyarko broke though the Red Bulls back line and directed a low cross to Dominic Oduro, who deflect a shot off NY 'keeper Chris Konopka's left hand in the 16th minute to answer Henry's early goal. Sebastian Grazzini followed just eight minutes later by bouncing a rebound off Konopka's hand inside the net for his first career MLS goal.

Saturday's draw helped the Red Bulls (6-6-13, 31 pts) wrestle sole possession of third place from an idle Sporting Kansas City (7-7-9, 30 pts) and keep pace with a second-place Philadelphia Union (8-5-10, 34 pts) club that also finished with a 2-2 draw. However, the Columbus Crew (10-7-7, 37 pts) boosted their first-place lead in the Eastern Conference with a win over the New England Revolution on Saturday.

Fingers Crossed. The likes of Mark Messier and Joe Namath became deities in New York sports by delivering on their public guarantees. In his postgame comments, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe decided to lay down his own guarantee about his club's chances at postseason success despite leaving without the club's first win in a month.

"As it looked today, definitely yes," said Backe. "Absolutely this is a playoff team. And if we reach the playoffs, I am absolutely sure we will be very dangerous."

Play of the Game: Oduro's Goal. Oduro's goal was fairly simple in its execution, but revealed a greater flaw that ultimately held back the Red Bulls on Saturday.

Oduro's goal does not happen with effective pressure from the Red Bulls back line. Tim Ream and Roy Miller failed to execute an offside trap on the Ghanaian striker, leaving him with nothing but Konopka in his path to the net. When Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa chipped a ball behind the Red Bulls back line, Nyarko only had to receive it and cross it to the wide-open Oduro for the goal. Miller and Ream did the same thing by letting Nyarko break through on the rush preceding the second goal, though Grazzini did the dirty work himself.

"It’s a mentality," said Ream. "In the beginning of the year, we came in with a mentality of no goals, and just staying compact defensively. As the year’s progressed we kind of got away from it a little bit. We’re working on it every day and trying to get back to that."

The mentality of the Red Bulls back line has taken a beating with its failed pressures and broken traps in recent weeks, but the faults may reflect a failure in the big picture. The back line is regressing this year, and that deficiency should fall at the feet of the coach in charge of developing the club's defensive efforts.

Shot Stopper Squabble. With Bouna Coundoul arriving too late on Friday from his international duty with Senegal to comfortably start against the Fire, Backe elected to assign the netminder duties to an MLS Pool player in Konopka. He did so despite having a reserve 'keeper on his roster in Alex Horwath, who was available to play and previously kept a clean sheet in a scoreless draw against the Columbus Crew in March -- just one day after he signed with the club.

"Konopka had been outstanding this week," said Backe. "He has looked very, very sharp. That is why we chose him before Alex Horwath."

Konopka did for the most part on Saturday, except for the two balls that bounced off his hands and found their way into the net moments later. However, Konopka's start may have left Backe's other option hinting at how it feels when one feels the NY coach's cold shoulder.

"Keeping that head held high," tweeted Horwath after the match. Two days earlier, the reserve shot stopper hinted at needing a boost of confidence, tweeting "Really really really need to get away."

Swap Shop. Guadeloupean defensive midfielder Stéphane Auvray made his Red Bulls debut in the 60th minute by replacing Mehdi Ballouchy. But before you go thinking Backe made a strategic substitution by bringing in his new player with a defensive mindset at a critical juncture, he also substituted in Juan Agudelo for Dax McCarty in the 60th minute. That straight swap in the 60th minute represents the only changes Backe made on Saturday.

Plus 11. That's the attempts on goal differential in favor of the Red Bulls, who saw 20 good looks as compared to nine by Chicago. Both clubs only directed five shot on net, while the Red Bulls directed 13 balls wide as compared to four by the Fire. Kudos to the Fire defense for overcoming the absence of defender Cory Gibbs and creating enough traffic to keep the Red Bulls attack offline, but the Red Bulls certainly had their chances against the worst team by points in the Eastern Conference.

New York continues their playoff push on the road next weekend as they pay a visit to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Saturday. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire

August, 13, 2011
8/13/11
11:30
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Is home where the heart is for the New York Red Bulls?

21 days, three matches, one MLS All-Star Game, and one trade with a conference rival later, the Red Bulls finally return home to Red Bull Arena on Saturday for a conference clash with the Chicago Fire. A second-half goal by Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa helped Chicago save a draw in the first leg of their regular season encounters on June 25, while the Fire took offense to New York's decision to effectively punt their US Open Cup quarterfinal match at Toyota Park away by decimating the shorthanded side of baby Bulls with a 4-0 win on July 12.

New York looks to claim their first victory in over a month after a discouraging 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake last weekend deflated the club's spirits following their Emirates Cup win. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman fueled the Claret-and-Cobalt attack against a Red Bulls side that failed to recover from its own mistakes and lost not just the game but also starting goalkeeper Frank Rost and Norwegian winger Jan Gunnar Solli to injury.

Chicago continues to reestablish a club identity that once haunted all Eastern Conference clubs by fostering its speedy attack led by Pappa, Dominic Oduro, and Diego Chaves. The Fire arrive at Red Bull Arena still plagued by its season-long inconsistency, most recently following a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union with a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps last week.

Sporting Kansas City (7-7-9, 30 pts) remains tied with Red Bulls (6-6-12, 30 pts) for third place, while four points separate the two clubs from the conference-leading Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts). The second-place Union (8-5-9, 33 pts), who announced the signing of the American phenom Freddy Adu on Friday, also stand between the Red Bulls and first place.

The New Guy. New York announced on Friday that it acquired Guadeloupean defensive midfielder Stéphane Auvray in a trade with conference rival Sporting Kansas City. Sporting KC received New York’s natural 2013 second round MLS SuperDraft pick as compensation.

Auvray held down the defensive midfield role for Sporting KC (then the Kansas City Wizards) in 2010 until a nagging knee injury appeared to weaken his form down the stretch. Still in the club's plans for 2011, he failed to regain that 2010 form and saw his playing time dwindle until he departed to captain the Guadaloupe side in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June. His playing time did not return after the Gold Cup, leaving the discontent midfielder sitting out from practices until Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes found him a new home.

Now, Auvray arrives at Red Bull Arena to a club still grasping at playoff straws and with an opening in the midfield necessitated by the nagging injuries and illness plaguing Teemu Tainio and the ineffectiveness of Dax McCarty. What will he contribute to the playoff chase?

Key Matchup: Dane Richards vs. Chicago's Back Line. The trio of Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere, and Juan Agudelo remain the only active Red Bulls to net a goal in regular season play since June. Agudelo mustered New York's only shot on goal against Real Salt Lake last weekend, creating further questions about where to look for a much-needed offensive outburst.

That's where Dane Richards comes in. The Jamaican midfielder missed last Saturday's match while serving a one-game suspension for a red card and left New York lacking pace on the right flank that Richards consistently delivers -- especially after Solli left the game due to injury.

Richards now returns to a Red Bulls attack that will look to exploit the absence of Chicago defender Cory Gibbs, who will miss Saturday's match with a groin injury. New York knows what to expect from Henry, Lindpere, and Agudelo, but what it gets from the return of Richards may be the catalyst for the Red Bulls' stagnant offense.

Bouna Time is the Right Time. With Rost missing action on a week-to-week basis due to a right quadriceps tear, Bouna Coundoul is expected to get his first MLS start since collecting consecutive draws against the Fire on June 26 and San Jose Earthquakes on July 2. Coundoul also started for the baby Bulls squad in the US Open Cup quarterfinal match against the Fire.

Coundoul's familiarity with facing the Fire this season may ease the loss of Rost to a Red Bulls squad that went all-in on their third designated player. Coundoul just needs to show his resiliency from jet lag after making a round trip to Dakar this week for international duty as well as shaking off any disappointment from his role in his native Senegal's 2-0 upset loss to Morocco on Wednesday.

Second to None. Chicago has scored the second-fewest number of goals of any MLS club with 24, just one more than the league-worst 23 goals by New England. That comes despite taking the third-most shots (315) and fifth-most shots on goal (106), indicating a trouble for the Fire of being able to hit 'em where they ain't -- but at the goalmouth.

For a Fire side built on speed, it remains susceptible to having their attack broken up by traffic -- giving newcomer Auvray and McCarty along with the Red Bulls back line an added incentive to pick up their own pace and take a few balls away from the visitors.

Three to Tango. While much has been made of the Red Bulls troubles of late, they can still boast a healthy 5-2-4 record at home. New York's last three wins all came at home, though one must go all the way back to an April 30 win over Sporting Kansas City to complete that trifecta.

RBNY Notes: Reeling Red Bulls seek "right mentality" to regain form

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
12:52
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Can a change in scenery change the Red Bulls' recent mindset?

Following a demoralizing 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake last weekend, the Red Bulls likely needed to hear the cheers of the hundreds of loyal supporters in attendance during Tuesday's open practice at Chelsea Waterside Park in Manhattan. The club has not had much to cheer about after losing three of their last five matches in league play while lacking a victory over a playoff-caliber opponent since an April 30 win over Sporting Kansas City.

The perfect storm of injuries, roster shuffling, and a non-existent killer instinct plaguing New York in recent weeks might not go away with a training drill or tactical change, but Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty believes the impending sense of doom following the club might be all in their heads.

"It’s all mental," said McCarty. "The one thing you have to bring in every single game is the right mentality, the right heart, and the will to fight for your teammates. Sometimes, we kind of assume that we’re so talented that we’ll just win games based on talent alone -- and that’s not the case. It’s a very hard league. It’s a very demanding league. If we don’t bring the right mentality to start games, we’re going to get punished."

McCarty's recent form is merely a symptom of a punished club with great expectations and troubling results to date. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe pulled an ineffective McCarty for a substitute in the club's last two losses against RSL and the Colorado Rapids, but those changes were well after the end result was no longer in doubt.

Fellow Red Bulls midfielder Dane Richards, who missed last Saturday's match at Rio Tinto Stadium while serving a one-game suspension for a red card, hopes that a boost in morale will come from the Red Bulls regaining their form in a familiar atmosphere.

"(We're) pretty down because we’ve been terrible for the last couple of games," said Richards. "We know we can do better, so it’s just a matter to go out and do better. Mentally, I think we’re OK but we just need to get back our legs from the long West Coast traveling and just try to get three points at home."

Whereas New York has collected only one win in 13 games away from Red Bull Arena, they have found better results with a home-field advantage. They boast a 5-2-4 record at home this season including wins in two of their past three home games, even if those wins came at the expense of the lowly sides of Toronto FC and the New England Revolution.

With a home-cooked rematch against the Eastern Conference cellar-dwelling Chicago Fire on tap this weekend, the time would appear ripe for the Red Bulls to get back where they fell off the track. They just need to reset their expectations and be realistic about the club's capabilities for the stretch run.

"We have 10 games left," said McCarty. "We’re still in a decent position to make the playoffs. Obviously, the Supporters’ Shield is out of reach, so the focus for us is to make the playoffs because we know we’re a good team. We know we’re a dangerous team. When you’re in the playoffs, it’s a new season and we know we can win MLS Cup."

Feeling the Hurt. As Backe prepares to face the Fire this weekend, he does so while once again training with a depleted roster.

Red Bulls 'keeper Frank Rost will miss Saturday's match after sustaining a right quadriceps tear against Real Salt Lake last weekend, with the German shot stopper's status to be further evaluated on a week-to-week basis. Rost's replacement, Bouna Coundoul, is away from the club on international duty along with Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream, and Rafael Marquez. Jan Gunnar Solli also remains questionable for Saturday's match with a right quadriceps strain.

"It feels this season that something happens almost every day," said Backe. "Before the game, Roy Miller got his knee. Game day, Teemu Tainio got sick. And now, I’ve got Frank Rost injured in the first half. We even picked up Solli’s injury against Salt Lake and he’s probably out. But hopefully, from the beginning of next week after the Chicago game, we have everybody back in training."

41. According to MLSsoccer.com's Extra Time Radio podcast from last Monday, that's how many scoring chances Joel Lindpere has created for the Red Bulls offense this season. That total is good enough for fourth-best in the league, behind Houston's Brad Davis (73 scoring chances created), L.A.'s David Beckham (49), and Seattle's Mauro Rosales (42).

RBNY Recap: Beckerman helps RSL regain form in 3-0 win over Red Bulls

August, 7, 2011
8/07/11
12:30
AM ET
Either winning the Emirates Cup is easy or winning against an MLS opponent is really hard.

Kyle Beckerman helped his struggling club regain their finishing touch as Real Salt Lake collected a 2-0 victor over the New York Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday. After sneaking past the Red Bulls defense, Nat Borchers connected with a Beckermann corner kick and bounced a header inside the net in the 13th minute to give Real Salt Lake an early lead.

The RSL captain then set up 17-year-old Luis Gil's first career goal in MLS in the 44th minute by intercepting a Rafael Marquez clearance on the left flank and sending a quick through ball to Gil, who calmy directed a bouncing shot inside the far post to put the home side up by two before halftime.

A Roy Miller handball in the penalty area resulted in RSL's backbreaker goal as Alvaro Saborio fired the resulting penalty shot towards the bottom right corner of the net in the 77th minute.

New York (6-6-12, 30 pts) failed to create distance against a surging Sporting Kansas City (7-7-9, 30 pts) side that lost on Saturday and gain ground following a Friday loss by the first-place Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts)and a Saturday draw by the Philadelphia Union (8-5-9, 33 pts).

Triple Threat. No player besides Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, and Joel Lindpere has scored a goal for the Red Bulls since Luke Rodgers found the back of the net against Toronto FC on July 6.

With Dane Richards missing Saturday's match due to suspension and Dwayne De Rosario and Austin da Luz now plying their trade for D.C. United, no player besides the Henry-Lindpere-Agudelo trio that was eligible to play on Saturday has scored a goal in MLS regular season play since Mehdi Ballouchy struck early against the Columbus Crew on June 9.

John Rooney, who entered Saturday's match in the 69th minute to replace an injured Jan Gunnar Solli, and Corey Hertzog were on the Red Bulls bench and scored against FC New York in the US Open Cup match on June 28.

Play of the Game: Gil's Goal. Real Salt Lake ultimately claimed their victory by controlling the run of play and disrupting any attempts by the Red Bulls to come to life.

And that describes how Gil's goal came to be, as Marquez looked to clear a Miller throw-in only to have Beckerman meet the ball on its downward trajectory and run unobstructed towards the net before pushing the ball up to Gil. It was a quick counterattack that caught the Red Bulls on their heels, but the lethargy shown by the Red Bulls plagued them all night and left the supporters wondering whether the club was suffering from jet lag from its recent London trip.

Rusty Rost. After conceding two goals in the first half, Red Bulls 'keeper Frank Rost saw his night end at halftime as Hans Backe handed the shot stopper duties to Bouna Coundoul. Backe admitted in comments on the MSG Postgame show that it's too early to determine a pronosis for the injuries sustained by Rost and Solli, but only the German 'keeper started the match with questions about his health after enduring an injury on the flight back from London. Teemu Tainio was also unavailable to play despite making the trip to Sandy, Utah with what the club described as "flu-like symptoms."

Keep Away. Much is made about Real Salt Lake's prolific possession game on offense, but it was ultimately their ability to recover loose balls from the poor form of the Red Bulls that fueled the offensive onslaught.

RSL recovered 55 balls from the Red Bulls on Saturday according to the Opta Chalkboards, which is more than double than the 27 balls recoved by New York. No RSL defender or midfielder recovered less than three balls from the Red Bulls, while no Red Bulls defender or midfielder other than Ballouchy recovered more than three from the home side.

If you want the ball, you have to go get it. Real Salt Lake most definitely did, while the Red Bulls failed to keep up on Saturday.

Don't Come Around Here No More. Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium has served as a house of horrors for soccer clubs great and small, culminating in a 37-match unbeaten streak that was ended by Mexican side Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League finale in April.

However, New York's recent futility at Rio Tinto remains intact as Real Salt Lake maintains a 2-0-1 record in regular season play against the Red Bulls since the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw in the first match of the building's history on October 9, 2008. The Red Bulls did collect a 1-0 win over the Claret-and-Cobalt in the 2008 MLS Western Conference finals to clinch a spot in that year's MLS Cup match.

After failing for the 11th time this season to collect a win outside the Eastern time zone against an MLS opponent, the Red Bulls will look to extract revenge at Red Bull Arena next Saturday against a Chicago Fire club that collected a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their MLS regular season matches on June 26 and a 4-0 victory in the US Open Cup quarterfinals on July 12. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake

August, 6, 2011
8/06/11
12:16
PM ET
New York has not played a match that's meaningful to their postseason chances in two weeks.

But try saying that in front of the newest addition to their trophy case.

The New York Red Bulls carry the goodwill of their recent Emirates Cup win to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Saturday as they kick off against a struggling Real Salt Lake side. New York overcame the goosebumps generated by Thierry Henry's homecoming match at the home of his former English Premier League side Arsenal F.C. to establish a fine defensive form against the Gunners a mere 24 hours after Joel Lindpere scored the game-winning goal for an unlikely 1-0 win over Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Salt Lake returns home with spirits low from conceding two shutout losses in the past week. The CONCACAF Champions League runners-up dropped identical 2-0 results against the Columbus Crew at home last Saturday and at Sporting Kansas City this past Wednesday, with absences of Álvaro Saborío and Jamison Olave providing only a small part of RSL's recently poor form.

Thanks to the futility of the Claret-and-Cobalt and New York's inactivity over the past two weeks, the Red Bulls (6-5-12, 30 pts) now find themselves tied for third place of the Eastern Conference with a surging Sporting Kansas City (7-6-9, 30 pts) side and four points behind the newly-minuted first-place Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts). The Philadelphia Union (8-5-8, 32 pts) sit two points in front of New York in second place and with two games in hand on both the Crew and Red Bulls.

187. That how many minutes it has been since a typically-potent Real Salt Lake side has found the back of the net. RSL striker Fabian Espindola leads the club with six goals this season but has not scored July 9, while Saborio collected a double against the San Jose Earthquakes before the All-Star Break but was suspended one match for diving against the Quakes.

Key Matchup: Thierry Henry vs. Olave's Replacement. Surely, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe did nothing malicious in his MLS All-Star coaching duties when he oversaw a knee injury to the RSL center back in the star-studded showcase.

The reigning MLS Defender of the Year will miss his third match since the MLS All-Star Game with the same MCL strain, leaving a gap in the RSL back line for the Red Bulls attack to exploit. Olave's replacement, Chris Schuler, has looked lost at times against the Crew and Sporting KC, fueling speculation that RSL coach Jason Kreis may call upon Rauwshan McKenzie to take a shot at filling Olave's shoes alongside defensive stalwart Nat Borchers.

Olave's absence leaves a gap in a back line that Henry and company will try to get behind when they can wrestle possession from a typically-disciplined RSL side led by team captain Kyle Beckerman. The Red Bulls may find their most effective offensive output coming from pressing right up the middle against the home team on their own turf.

Missing in Action. Backe revealed earlier this week that Luke Rodgers is expected to miss up to three weeks of games before a final determination is made on whether an ankle injury will shut the English forward down for the rest of the season. That may raise the expectations for Juan Agudelo, who will benefit most from Rodgers's absence from a playing-time standpoint.

New York will also miss midfielder Dane Richards as he served a one-game suspension for a red card he received against FC Dallas, but expect that a quadricep cramp injury sustained by German 'keeper Frank Rost on the flight back from London on Monday will not keep their shot stopper from missing Saturday's match.

Conquer the World. On Thursday, the Red Bulls learned that they will lose Agudelo along with defenders Tim Ream and Rafael Marquez as well as goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul to international duty following Saturday's match. The foursome are expected back in time for the Red Bulls match at home against the Chicago Fire next weekend, meaning they will only miss out on practice time rather than in-game action.

Travel Travails. New York did collect a win and a draw overseas last weekend, but those results do nothing to better the club's 0-2-8 record in away matches outside their own time zone. Mercifully, the Red Bulls have six home games to four away after Saturday's contest that includes three of their next four matches at home. A win against Real Salt Lake would help the Red Bulls open the second half on the right foot and return home in much better spirits for the stretch run.

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