New York Soccer: CenturyLink Field

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Colorado Rapids

July, 20, 2011
A Rocky Mountain rematch is on deck as the New York Red Bulls pay a visit to the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday.

New York will seek to regain its attacking form after leaving the Home Depot Center with a scoreless draw against Chivas USA on Saturday. Roy Miller headlined a Red Bulls defense that empowered new German goalkeeper Frank Rost into collecting his first clean sheet by preventing the Goats from registering a shot on target, while Chivas kept the New York press at bay until late in the second half.

Colorado continues to tread water in the Western Conference after dropping a 4-3 result to the Seattle Sounders in a wild match at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. The Rapids hope to regain the form that created two early leads over New York before leaving Red Bull Arena with a 2-2 draw in the first leg of this regular season matchup on May 25.

An easy 3-0 victory for the Philadelphia Union (8-4-7, 31 pts) over the New England Revolution on Sunday once again relegates the Red Bulls (6-4-11, 29 pts) to second place in the Eastern Conference and two points behind the first-place Philly side.

Mighty Casey Strikes Out. While Colorado's loss to the Sounders further damaged their chances at defending the MLS Cup this fall, it's another loss from that game which is creating greater concern.

The Rapids lost their leading scorer for the rest of the season after Conor Casey fell to the ground unchallenged in the first half of Sunday's loss at Seattle with what an MRI later revealed as a torn Achilles tendon. Rapids coach Gary Smith indicated to that Caleb Foran will likely fill in up top for Casey, who has six of the club's 25 goals this season.

Key Matchup: NY's Central Defense vs. Rapids Forwards. With the Rapids having a very short period to rebound from Casey's injury, it creates uncertainty as to whether Colorado can establish an attacking form that they've lacked at full strength this season.

Casey made an impact against the Red Bulls tandem of Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes upon entering the May 25 tilt -- Mendes filled in for Rafael Marquez, who was tending to a hamstring injury ahead of the Gold Cup -- as a substitute after returning from a hamstring injury. He almost scored the game-winner in the 77th minute after deflecting a net-bound shot off Red Bulls 'keeper Greg Sutton, only to have Ream knock it away at the goalmouth.

No team just replaces a player like Casey. And it's inevitably up to Ream and Mendes to prevent any contenders from filling Casey's shoes on Wednesday.

Set Piece Salsa. Both Colorado goals in May came from the foot of Jeff Larentowicz, who scored one from a set piece and finished the other by collecting his own rebound from another free kick. New York didn't surrender many free kicks against the Rapids, but the visitors made them pay for each occurrence. The zonal marking system implemented by Red Bulls coach Hans Backe could be put to the test again and will be judged by that poor performance in May.

Turnover Town. New York dominated possession against the Rapids in the first leg in May, but Colorado did just enough to cut the legs out of the Red Bulls attack with timely turnovers. It made things tough in the defensive third for the Rapids, with only Drew Moor consistently establishing any distribution from the back. But it made things impossible for the Red Bulls, who simply couldn't get behind the Rapids back line and finish off their guests after the half.

Five. If you include the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, that's how many games Backe could call Ream, Thierry Henry, and Juan Agudelo to participate in over the next 11 days.

Luke Rodgers, who described his Red Bulls tenure to Staffordshire's The Sentinel as "the happiest (he's) been in football," remains in limbo due the lingering effects of plantar fasciitis. New York's depth also took a hit with their Monday trade of Austin da Luz to D.C. United, leaving Backe with his work cut out for him in balancing the team's attacking depth for the MLS regular season, their appraisal in the MLS All-Star Game, and their reputation in next week's Emirates Cup challenge.

Rapid Reaction: Sounders 4, Red Bulls 2

June, 24, 2011
It rains a great deal in Seattle, but only the Red Bulls ended up wet this time around.

Sounders sub Roger Levesque earned a second-half brace to answer an own goal by Zach Scott as Seattle laid claim to a 4-2 victory over a depleted New York side at the newly-renamed CenturyLink Field on Thursday. A faulty back line and static Greg Sutton enabled Seattle midfielders Eric Friberg and Osvaldo Alonso to convert two early set pieces into goals, while Dane Richards declared his Red Bulls return from the Gold Cup by scoring his third goal of the season.

The loss leaves New York tied with the Philadelphia Union atop the Eastern Conference at 23 points apiece, with Philly (6-4-5) coming in one win better than the Red Bulls (5-3-8).

Play of the Game: Montero's Bump on Sutton. Seattle found itself with a corner kick mere moments after Friberg opened scoring. Mauro Rosales directed a ball in the box to the right side of the spot, which enticed Sutton to charge through the sea of bodies crowding the area and towards the ball's landing spot.

Sutton, however, forgot to watch his step as he bumped into Freddy Montero en route to the ball. The bump rattled the Canadian 'keeper, who expected a foul. Instead of picking up the ball to close out the angles, Sutton stayed in place as Alonso swung a low shot from the right of the arc through the crowded penalty area and past a helpless Sutton.

While New York's set piece inability to defend against set pieces was front and center, Sutton's shortcomings were equally on display. He displayed limited range and found himself constantly struggling to get in the right position to block the Seattle attack. He struggled to handle a pass from his own defender that he lost moments later to Levesque, who scrambled past him for his second goal of the game.

Mama said there'd be games like this, but one wonders if Red Bulls coach Hans Backe will finally call upon Bouna Coundoul to give Sutton a much-needed break.

Stuck in the Middle. While the numbers reflect a 63%-to-37% edge in possession for the Red Bulls, that gap is largely attributed to New York finding itself with the ball in its own defensive end. The Seattle midfield of Alonso, Friberg, Rosales, and Alonso frustrated the patchwork Red Bulls attack all evening by cutting off passing lanes and preventing anyone from providing service to Richards and Dwayne De Rosario up top. New York found itself with only three of its 13 shots on target, and Seattle did not allow any of those shots to morph into a more potent attack.

Backing Down. With the Gold Cup final involving the United States and Mexico on Saturday, the Red Bulls will need to fare without Rafael Marquez and Tim Ream for a bit longer.

Whether they'll make it that far is another question. Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes filled in for the Gold Cup duo again at Seattle, and again found themselves constantly rattled by the potent attack and the antagonistic atmosphere. Keel struggled to mark his man on the early Alonso and Friberg goals, and keeps showing up in the wrong spot when Seattle was at its best. Roy Miller also found himself getting beat with regularity out on the left flank, but what can he do when there's no one capable of getting his back?

What Went Right. Excluded from the deficiencies found in the back line and midfield is right back Jan Gunnar Solli, who reminded onlookers of his speed and creativity pushing the ball up a right flank that Seattle defended with spare parts.

Solli's night culminated with his work to obtain New York's second goal of the night. He picked up a long lob pass from De Rosario and rushed it clear down the right flank to the end line. After executing a nutmeg through defender Leonardo Gonzalez before taking a strong shot from the right of the penalty area that deflected off Scott in front of the six-yard-box and redirected into the net for the equalizer.

New York couldn't make Solli's strike stand up, but the Norwegian raised his game in a match where so many fell to lower levels.

Minus Three. That's the penalty differential between the 11 fouls called on New York versus eight for Seattle. Both sides finished level with yellow cards at three apiece. In an interesting note, Michael Kennedy served as the match referee on Thursday, four days after clarifying the red card assessed to Thierry Henry by Ricardo Salazar on behalf of U.S. Soccer. Coincidence?

There is no rest for the Red Bulls as they leave the left coast to face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park for a matinee on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).