New York Soccer: Colorado Rapids

RBNY Recap: Galaxy's free kicks finish off Red Bulls' run in MLS Playoffs

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
12:58
PM ET

On a night where they committed twice as many fouls as their opponent, an errant kick effectively set the Red Bulls free from any further MLS postseason obligations. Ain't that a kick in the head?

Actually, yes. Landon Donovan still needed to convert the awarded penalty kick moments later to cement the Los Angeles Galaxy's 2-1 win over the Red Bulls on Thursday night and 3-1 win on aggregate in the MLS Western Conference semifinals, but it was a sloppy Roy Miller clearance kick to David Beckham's groggy noggin in the penalty area that made possible the last of a litany of free kicks which haunted New York all season.

It's a frustrating way to end a season, not only because the effective series winner was scored earlier in the match on another free kick -- that one courtesy of a Beckham free kick culminating in a header by newly-minted Red Bulls killer Mike Magee -- but moreso because the majority of goals typically scored in soccer come in the run of play. Free kicks are passing moments in soccer, with formations designed by coaches who understand fully that any greater strategy to defend against them will dissipate in seconds once the run of play is restored from the stoppage.

Of the 96 goals scored or allowed by the Red Bulls during the 2011 MLS regular season, 29 of them -- or approximately 30% -- resulted due to or immediately following a dead ball. New York finished 10 of those free kicks, meaning they allowed twice as many penalty-area headers and goalmouth tap-ins as they scored. Considering the Red Bulls committed two more fouls than they suffered per 90 minutes in 2011, that's enough of an inefficiency for a precision kicker like Beckham to exploit with ease.

It was also enough to make heroes of Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz last May and Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio in August and September. Free kicks let Dynamo striker Cam Weaver net an equalizer in the early goings of the season and let Seattle Sounders sub Roger Levesque finish off New York last summer.

Donovan and Beckham didn't just finish off the Red Bulls with their free kick follies. They finished off the Red Bulls again, joining a long list of opponents this season who just seemed to convert timely chances from dead balls while painfully reminding Luke Rodgers and his Red Bulls side that, despite finding their confidence and form late in the season, they remain the same ol' Red Bulls that can't defend against the set piece.

"We’re starting to get all over them," said Rodgers. "And, once again, we’re conceding from set pieces. I don’t care what team you’re on, if you’re conceding set-piece goals, you’re not going to win many games. If you look at the season, there’s been a pattern and we need to eliminate it next season or we will be in the same position."

That same position, watching some other side raise the MLS Cup in triumph, is one the Red Bulls have remained in for 15 seasons now and counting. They also remain in the same position as last season, as the San Jose Earthquakes also cut short the Red Bulls' postseason run in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal rounds.

Unfortunately, the Red Bulls finished out of position on their set pieces Thursday night as they have done enough times throughout the season to worry supporters everywhere. It was a combination of poor marking and a case of bad luck.

And, it resulted in the same ol' Red Bulls being kicked free and clear of the MLS Playoffs once again.

Tainio Take Out. Rodgers's goal in the 4th minute let the Red Bulls set the tone to open the match, but the injury to defensive midfielder Teemu Tainio 10 minutes later seemed to expose a gap in the Red Bulls midfield already missing a suspended Rafael Marquez. The troubles didn't follow immediately, but Thierry Henry admitted after the match that the absences of Tainio and Marquez made their mark on the final result.

“You kind of don’t think about it when you are playing the game," said Henry. "But we already lost Rafa. I don’t when exactly he came out, but losing a player like Teemu basically you losing two players that play in front of the defense usually. Now that I think about it you don’t want to have them out of the field, but we still gave them a good run.”

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe also admitted that Tainio's premature exit forced Henry to drop deeper into the midfield to provide support to Dax McCarty and Stephane Auvray.

"When Teemu is not on the pitch with his distribution, I feel Thierry likes to get involved deep as a second striker to get involved in the build up,” said Backe.

48. That's the last minute a Red Bulls player registered a shot on target as L.A. netminder Josh Saunders kept Rodgers out of the net in the 48th minute for his second and last save of the match. New York created multiple chances in the second half, but struggled to direct any of them on net against a Galaxy defense led by Omar Gonzalez that firmly established its shape.

“I think that we figured out how to deal with them," said Donovan. "Henry came back into the midfield and made it difficult. He was finding little spots and we were kind of pulled apart. I think once we figured that out and once we were better with the ball we started picking them apart and creating chances."

Two Step. New York were the only MLS club to claim a regular season series win against the Galaxy with a draw in May and win in October. That provides little consolation to Henry, who concedes that the Galaxy ultimately won the matches when they counted the most.

“They won," said Henry. "They beat us at our place. They beat us at their place. So, at the end of the day, there’s nothing to say about it. We gave it a go.”

RBNY Recap: Henry's ejection leaves Red Bulls close to worst-case playoff scenario

October, 16, 2011
10/16/11
10:19
AM ET

While computing the various postseason berth scenarios created by the current MLS Playoffs format, one might forget to include the worst-case scenario among the hypothetical happy endings. It's easy to ask what's the best your MLS club can do, but less so while pondering what's the worst that could happen.

Fail to clinch a wild card berth? Check.

Render your team captain and league-leading goal scorer ineligible for the regular season finale? Check.

Reintroduce concerns about the club's complete inability to defend against set pieces? Check.

Put up so messy a performance that there's no goodwill to build from going forward? Check.

For the players who had to finish the final hour of Saturday's contest without their captain, they'll probably settle for whatever good news they can get after the Red Bulls' 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City at the home side's house of horrors.

"We knew coming in here, it was going to be tough because they play good at home," said midfielder Dane Richards. "And then, losing (Thierry) Henry in the 28th minute, that was even tougher. We managed to hold it out and then gave up two goals in set pieces, I’m disappointed about that. But you just have to look forward from here on."

In fact, only one thing the New York Red Bulls needed to happen on Saturday actually did: D.C. United fell 2-1 to the Chicago Fire later that day, thus ceding control of their playoff fate back to the Red Bulls. During a halftime interview on MSG, Red Bulls assistant coach Mike Petke described the ejection of Henry as the "icing on the cake" of a demoralizing performance. With D.C. losing, that's now accurate since the actual worst thing that could have happen -- losing control of their own playoff destiny -- ultimately did not.

But New York now has no chance to win the Eastern Conference nor clinch one of the conference's automatic playoff berths. They guaranteed themselves a finish no better than a lower-seeded wild card berth, which means the Red Bulls would take any postseason show on the road for the duration of the MLS playoffs -- and likely kick off out west against FC Dallas or the Colorado Rapids.

Those same Rapids snuck into the 2010 MLS Playoffs and snuck off with the MLS Cup, so anything's possible. That's one of the two messages Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe is ready relay to his players in preparation of yet another must-win match in next Thursday's regular season finale at Red Bull Arena against the Philadelphia Union (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

"I would say any team that goes into the playoffs can win," said Backe.

The other message? A familiar refrain: Win, and you're somehow still in.

Set Up to Fail. Losing Henry so early in Saturday's matches may have cut the wind out of New York's sails, but the remaining players on the pitch still had an hour's worth of game to play. They may have played with spirits low, but center back Stephen Keel recognizes how his side eventually let Sporting KC beat them.

"Both goals came off set pieces," said Keel. "Even a man down, we should have had everyone marked up. When you’re a man down, you get your chances. I thought we did a decent job – especially in the first half – to keep everything compact with the back four and organized with Rafa and Teemu in there to force them wide and deal with the crosses. It’s tough, but not something we shouldn’t be able to handle."

Precautionary Measure. Backe admitted after the match that his 70th-minute substitution of Luke Rodgers in favor of Juan Agudelo was not for defensive purposes, but because the English striker was one yellow card shy of being suspended for Thursday's finale as well due to yellow card accumulation.

No one can blame Backe for looking ahead to next Thursday's Philly finale after falling a man down and two goals behind, but the Red Bulls coach raised the de-facto white flag to give respect to a dominating Sporting KC performance as well.

"They had been on a phenomenal run," said Backe. "I remember when they played those 10 away games they didn’t have many points but after that, they had a phenomenal run. They’re a hardworking, physical team. They have three front guys – all three of them can score or set up goals."

RBNY Notes: Updating the Red Bulls' playoff picture

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
2:33
PM ET
Without lifting a finger for over a week, the Red Bulls just received a much brighter forecast for their MLS playoff chances.

New York's position in the standings became more stable courtesy of Wednesday losses for the Chicago Fire and D.C. United. The Fire are mathematically eliminated courtesy of a 2-1 loss to an FC Dallas side that clinched their own playoff berth in the process, while D.C. United mitigated the effects of their games in hand on the Red Bulls by dropping one of them to the lowly Vancouver Whitecaps in a 2-1 loss at BC Place.

So where does that leave the Red Bulls? Take a seat at their playoff table:
Club Points GL Max Magic # Tragic # TB?
FC Dallas 49 2 55 12 1 Y
Union 47 2 53 11 2 N
SKC 45 2 51 8 5 Y
Rapids 45 2 51 9 4 N
Crew 44 2 50 7 6 Y
RBNY 43 2 49 N/A N/A N/A
Dynamo 43 2 49 6 7 Y
Timbers 40 3 49 6 10 Y
D.C. United 38 3 47 4 12 Y

(For an explanation of how this table works, please review last week's introductory post about it.)

At the moment, New York sits in ninth place of the overall MLS standings with a firm grasp on a wild card berth and their own playoff destiny. However, the picture before you could change dramatically before Thierry Henry and his merry men lay a toe on a soccer ball in Kansas City this weekend. All of that is noise for the Red Bulls at the moment, but they'll need to monitor the out-of-town scoreboard to see what work has to be done at Livestrong Sporting Park this Saturday.

So how could this weekend's action affect the Red Bulls? There's still quite a few permutations available to help New York's chances, but here are the highlights heading into Saturday:

If New York wins and D.C. United doesn't, the Red Bulls are in regardless of what Houston and Portland do to each other on Friday night as long as someone wins. New York has the tiebreaker over all three clubs and either the Timbers or Dynamo are about to take a step back pending Friday's results. As any four points benefiting the Red Bulls would clinch a better finish in the regular season standings over D.C., a Saturday win coupled with a winner in the Portland-Houston clash and a DCU draw in any of their longtime rival's final three matches would officially lift New York into the postseason.

New York's still in contention for the Eastern Conference crown. There's one path available to the Red Bulls that could leave them atop the Eastern Conference standings at season's end, but it will take a little help from the bottom of that table to get it done.

If the Red Bulls beat Sporting Kansas City on Saturday while the Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew fail to win their matches this weekend against Toronto FC and the New England Revolution respectively, New York could clinch the East's overall top spot with a win over Philly in the season finale.

It would take a lot of help from unlikely sources for the Red Bulls to get to that point, but an Eastern Conference automatic berth is theirs for the taking if they win out or the Crew falter over their two matches.

Portland is no friend of the Red Bulls. Before the referee blows his whistle to start the SKC clash this weekend, the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo will face off for their playoff survival on Friday.

A Portland win would leave the final wild card race open for the final week of the MLS season, but a Dynamo victory would all but kill any hopes the expansion side had at crashing the MLS playoffs in their inaugural season. It would then take only a Rapids draw -- Colorado plays Friday evening as well against a Real Salt Lake side without Kyle Beckerman -- to leave Portland's fate in the Red Bulls' hands.

What if Houston and Portland battle to a draw? If New York wins and D.C. loses or draws, it doesn't matter. If D.C. wins, New York only needs a DCU draw or loss in one of their remaining two games next week to clinch a playoff spot.

And if New York loses? It would take a while to sort out the wreckage.

There's still work to be done and Red Bulls coach Hans Backe must know he can't rest on the laurels of a strong win over the Supporters' Shield-winning Los Angeles Galaxy that will have occurred 10 days prior to the Red Bulls kicking off at SKC. But if Backe feels compelled to clarify his club's standings in the MLS Playoff race, he only needs to reiterate four sweet words.

Win, and you're in.

RBNY Recap: Red Bulls back in playoff groove following shutout win over Galaxy

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
12:43
AM ET

The reports of the death of the Red Bulls are greatly exaggerated.

New York's playoff hopes are alive and well following a solid 2-0 win on Tuesday evening at Red Bull Arena against a Los Angeles Galaxy side missing a few key players. Luke Rodgers opened the scoring for the Red Bulls in the 32nd minute by finishing a rebound created by Galaxy 'keeper Donovan Ricketts with an astute volley at the six-yard-box.

Thierry Henry provided an insurance goal in the 59th minute by picking up a Rafael Marquez lob pass in stride and outpacing Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza en route to an easy chip shot over a diving Ricketts.

With the win, the Red Bulls (9-7-16, 43 pts) remain in firm control of their playoff destiny as they kept pace with the Houston Dynamo (10-9-13, 43 pts) and Portland Timbers (11-13-7, 40 pts) for the final wild card berth heading into the international break. D.C. United (9-10-11, 38 pts) can still overtake the fourth-place Red Bulls club in the standings by virtue of their game in hand, but New York's playoff standing remains secure due to their favorable tiebreakers over Houston and Portland.

New York also has an opportunity to overtake the Columbus Crew (12-12-8, 44 pts) for the final Eastern Conference automatic berth, but, like with D.C. United, will need some outside help to make that happen.

"It’s still very, very tight," said Red Bulls coach Hans Backe. "But this win today, it has definitely set us up with great possibility to play head-to-head with Kansas City and Philadelphia. But if we lose these games, we can be out of the playoffs. With the way we performed today, it reminds me a little bit of the beginning of the season. Not giving away anything and the willingness to defend with hard work. If we are in the playoffs, I think we would definitely be a threat."

Notable No-Shows. Not to take anything away from a clear win over a Galaxy side in position to clinch the Supporters' Shield any day now, but the missing stars on the visiting side may have tempered the capabilities of the best club in MLS by points. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena knew before kick off he'd be without Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Chris Birchall due to injury and international commitments, but also elected to start Jamaican 'keeper Donovan Ricketts over Josh Saunders in net.

Ricketts only surrendered the starting job due to an injury earlier this season, but had not started a match for L.A. since September 9 against the Colorado Rapids -- whereas Saunders has minded the net for every minute in between. Saunders likely needed the break, but that fatigue plagued more than just Ricketts's performance in Arena's eyes.

"It wasn’t our best night," said Arena. "I think we looked like a tired team. Tonight is a culmination of a lot of games over a short period of time, and it showed."

Play of the Game: Henry's Goal. It wasn't on par with the MLS Goal of the Week-caliber strike he completed against Toronto FC last weekend, but Henry's goal did more than just lift the French striker into a tie with D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario for the Golden Boot. It added another insurance goal -- a luxury for a Red Bulls attack that's struggled to put opponents to bed all season.

Henry's finish becomes doubly significant as it also came about from the foot of Marquez, who has earned the ire of Red Bulls supporters in recent days following his less-than-flattering appraisal of his teammates. Marquez, who started in the midfield once again, played as complete a game as anyone's seen since returning from a hamstring injury that chased him out of the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final in June. The pass, like many of his others on the evening, was crisp and perfectly timed -- exactly the kind of service which leaves Henry free to finish without needing to muster some fancy footwork to get behind the opposing back line.

Marquez to Henry -- It's the combination that sporting director Erik Solér had Red Bulls supporters dreaming about when New York acquired the two designated players last season, and the one they could use most as it prepares for the final playoff push.

German Efficency. After an ignominious debut that left supporters struggling with the decision to use a designated player spot on a goalkeeper, German shot stopper Frank Rost has removed all doubt about his capabilities following his third clean sheet in five matches. That Rost has done it at all is impressive, but that he's now kept playoff-caliber opponents scoreless twice in nine days indicates the Red Bulls' third designated player is rolling at the right time.

Plus 11. That's the interception differential from Tuesday and in the Red Bulls's favor. New York picked off more balls than the Galaxy and -- as the Opta Chalkboards point out -- did so across the width of the pitch and along the wings where Donovan usually plies his trade, whereas L.A. only managed to intercept passes down the middle of the field.

Tim Ream led the way with seven intercepted balls, with fellow center back Stephen Keel and left back Roy Miller chipping in five apiece for a New York side in which every starter not named Henry, Rodgers, or Rost picked off at least one ball.

"I felt pretty comfortable the last couple of starts," said Ream. "It’s a better feeling for the guy next to you and communication has been good, I think it’s just been the heart and the fight that everybody has shown has definitely rubbed off on everybody. I think (I should) be able to feel more comfortable playing that style and playing with more effort and more passion."

Ready to Rumble. For a New York side that's struggled to string two wins together in the same month, it's a night-and-day difference to suddenly start winning three of their last five matches. Their midseason form raised the eyebrows of league pundits everywhere about the club's potential to become the biggest albatross in MLS history, but Backe remains optimistic that the kinds of troubles that have plagued the Red Bulls this season will work themselves out in the end.

"These kinds of games take care of themselves," said Backe. "Every time you play the big guns, you don’t need any right way to motivate the players in any different or special style. It takes care of itself. We will see when we go on the road to Kansas City, if we can stay on the same level. Normally, I would analyze after our 34 games or after the playoffs. I am quite sure on what has gone wrong after the first seven games. But it seems that we are back now."

New York now gets an 11-day break to respect international competition before making their inaugural visit to Livestrong Sporting Park for a date with Eastern Conference rival Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, October 15. First kick is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.

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

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
12:52
AM ET
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: Henry salvages draw vs. FCD

July, 24, 2011
7/24/11
11:53
AM ET
For a club with championship aspirations, the Red Bulls likely wanted to level the 2010 MLS Cup runners-up rather than draw level with them.

New York accumulated their league-leading 12th tie of the season in a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Thierry Henry collected his league-leading 11th goal of the season for an equalizer in the 85th minute that built upon a goal before halftime by Juan Agudelo and a second-half brace by FCD midfielder Martin Chavez.

All appeared lost as Chavez netted his second goal in the 78th minute and Dane Richards was sent off with his second yellow card two minutes later. Then Henry picked up a Dax McCarty chip and badly beat FCD right back Zach Loyd before firing a strike high and inside the near post for a brilliant goal that allows New York to enter the All-Star break on even footing.

A win over the Portland Timbers helped the Columbus Crew (8-6-7, 31 pts) leapfrog the Red Bulls (6-5-12, 30 pts) to join a two-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Union (8-4-7, 31 pts), who fell to La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid in a World Football Challenge friendy on Saturday.

Red Rover. Henry scored the equalizer for New York despite the Red Bulls being shorthanded in the final 10 minutes of the match. Referee Jorge Gonzalez sent off Richards the 80th minute after the Jamaican winger received his second yellow card in the second half. The resulting red card means Richards is now automatically suspended for the Red Bulls' next MLS match at Real Salt Lake on August 6.

Play of the Game: FCD's Decision to Draw Back. Perhaps following the Colorado Rapids script that led to Wednesday's rout, FC Dallas attackers pressed up to restrain the Red Bulls to only one goal in the first half. However, it also appeared to handcuff the visitor's ability to build their own attacking efforts. As a result, FCD led New York in ball recoveries in the middle and attacking thirds but had not registered an attempt on goal at the half.

FCD coach Schellas Hyndman appeared to call off the dogs in the second half with the midfield substitution of Eric Avila for Bruno Guarda, which opened up the visitor's possession game and unlocked the pressure that ultimately resulted in Chavez's double. Both goals started from a passing chain that started from dead balls (the first a throw-in, the second a free kick) and let Dallas get back to what it does best.

Cheap Shot Stopping. Earlier this week, Canadian 'keeper Greg Sutton told the Winnipeg Free Press that his departure made him the fall guy for the troubles holding back the Red Bulls this season. Presently, current Red Bulls netminder Frank Rost has allowed six goals while blocking only five shots during his three-game honeymoon period. If Rost can't fix that differential soon, he will inevitably start feeling the heat that exiled Sutton.

Collateral Damage. Agudelo arguably played his best game as a pro on Saturday with his clever chip shot in the 39th minute giving his team a lead and giving his solid performance an exclamation point.

But a rookie mistake may resonate longer. Agudelo received a yellow card in the 88th minute for what the referee deemed a dive. While that would ordinarily be the end of it, Real Salt Lake benefited in their match against the San Jose Earthquakes from a more obvious dive by Alvaro Saborio that resulted in a penalty kick and ultimately the first goal for RSL.

The MLS Disciplinary Committee already made an example of D.C. United forward Charlie Davies with a $1,000 fine for his dive against Real Salt Lake in June. Should the league decide to make another statement about diving after Saborio's antics, Agudelo could feel the repercussions as well.

Rerun in Real Time. Speak up if you've heard this one before: The Red Bulls claim an early lead, only to concede two goals to the opposition before summoning a late strike for an equalizer and an inevitable draw.

Saturday's match represents the third time the Red Bulls followed that script, with early leads and late strikes salvaging draws at Houston on May 22 and at San Jose on July 3. Henry's goal was the only one to occur at home, though both he and Joel Lindpere scored their game-tying goals in the 85th minute. Mehdi Ballouchy netted his equalizer against Houston in the 91st minute.

New York now enters the All-Star Break but will have little time to rest as they prepare for next week's Emirates Cup tournament in London. In the interim, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe along with Henry, Agudelo, and Tim Ream will stick around for the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas

July, 23, 2011
7/23/11
10:53
AM ET
With a stinging loss still fresh in their minds, the Red Bulls face one more test before a much-needed All-Star break as they welcome 2010 MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas to Red Bull Arena on Saturday evening.

New York returns home with its tail between its legs after being summarily trounced 4-1 by the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Sanna Nyassi created the offensive spark for the Rapids by netting his first career hat trick, while Thierry Henry spoiled Colorado's clean sheet by scoring his league-leading 10th goal of the season.

FC Dallas has claimed wins in four of their past six MLS regular season matches, with a 1-0 victory over a revamped Toronto FC squad on Wednesday capping their hot streak. Dallas midfielder Brek Shea burned TFC 'keeper Stefan Frei with a bold shot from distance that found the upper 90 of the near post to break a 242-minute scoreless drought for FC Dallas with the game's only goal. It was Shea's ninth goal of the season.

Nothing changed atop the Eastern Conference, as the Philadelphia Union (8-4-7, 31 points) remain two points better than the second-place Red Bulls (6-5-11, 29 points). The Columbus Crew (7-6-7, 28 points) continue to bide their time in third place.

Feel The Burn: As New York prepares to rebound from being burned by the Rapids and to face the MLS squad formally known as the Burn, their most pressing concern will involve the burning sun bearing down on them at first kick. The forecast predicts a temperature of 96 degrees at the start, not to mention the heat index nor what the surface temperature will feel like on the pitch.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe will need to take great care in not letting his squad overheat en route to finishing the club's last full 90 in MLS play for two weeks -- even if the looming 2011 MLS All-Star Game and Emirates Cup will preclude his squad from resting during that time.

Key Matchup -- Rafael Marquez vs. Brek Shea: Nyassi exposed a fatal flaw in the Red Bulls' back line on Wednesday as he blew past them on all three goals and set up the fourth: Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes lack speed.

Mercifully, Mendes will return to the bench as the Red Bulls welcome Rafael Marquez back to the back line in his first action since leaving the Gold Cup finale with a hamstring injury. New York will need Marquez to quickly plug the hole that Nyassi exploited for a hat trick, or risk FCD midfielders Andrew Jacobson, Daniel Hernandez and Martin Chavez providing service to Shea's lead on the FC Dallas attack through the same gap.

Fixing The Hype Machine: Juan Agudelo continues to carry the weight of lofty expectations on his shoulders after MLS commissioner Don Garber selected him with one of his two picks for next week's All-Star Game.

That unfortunate reality, combined with the lingering absence of Luke Rodgers, means the young Red Bulls forward will be asked to punch above his weight. He has four goals this season -- two during the Toronto FC blowout, one in April against D.C. United, and one in the season opener against Seattle -- and showed a bit of chemistry with Henry up top in setting up the former Gunner's goal on Wednesday.

That chemistry now fuels the Red Bulls offense, whether or not Agudelo is ready for that responsibility.

Scandinavian Shuffle: Backe may be without Teemu Tainio once again as he recovers from a quadriceps strain, which could lead to Mehdi Ballouchy starting alongside Dax McCarty at a holding midfield position, or on the left wing with Joel Lindpere entrenching at center midfield.

If those combinations don't work, the return of Chris Albright could give Backe another option at midfield with Jan Gunnar Solli. Backe has already indicated that Albright will not start on Saturday. But Solli, who has admirably filled the right back role in Albright's absence, is a natural midfielder and could be relieved of his defensive responsibilities with a late Albright substitution to join the Red Bulls attack.

Welcome Home: New York has only one win in 12 games on the road this season, but its home record of 5-2-3 implies that the cozy confines of Red Bull Arena could help lift their spirits. Combining that with an FC Dallas losing streak in New Jersey that stretches back to 2007, and there's a solid setup for the Red Bulls to end the supporters' planned silent protests and give them a reason to cheer.

RBNY Recap: Nyassi's hat trick helps Rapids rock Red Bulls

July, 21, 2011
7/21/11
1:24
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Who knew being a mile high could leave the Red Bulls feeling so low?

Sanna Nyassi carved up the Red Bulls defense for his first career hat trick as the Colorado Rapids collected a 4-1 victory at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday. The Gambian midfielder, whose offensive outburst eased the Rapids' loss of forward Conor Casey for the season, factored in on all four Colorado goals -- including Colorado's first hat trick since August 2009 -- in what was only his seventh start of the season.

Despite maintaining a 60.4%-to-39.6% edge in possession, New York only directed three of their 12 shots on target and only one in the first half. Thierry Henry accounted for two of those three shots, which includes his league-leading 10th goal of the season.

The loss leaves New York (6-5-11, 29 pts) looking up from second place in the Eastern Conference at the Philadelphia Union (8-4-7, 31 pts), who collected a 1-0 win in a friendly against Everton of the English Premier League on Wednesday.

248. That's how many minutes the scoreless drought had extended for New York -- or 338 minutes, if you include the 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup quarterfinal -- before Henry collected a Juan Agudelo cross and cleverly tucked it low and inside the far post in the 67th minute for the visiting side's only goal.

Of course, Colorado already held a 4-0 lead when Henry put a crooked number on the score sheet for the Red Bulls. But this is as close as you will get to any kind of moral victory for what transpired on Wednesday.

Play of the Game: The Goal Nyassi Didn't Score. It should be noted that Wells Thompson could not score the Rapids' second goal of the game without Nyassi's help, but it was the course of events leading up to it which best represents New York's rocky night.

After Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens disrupts a Mehdi Ballouchy attempt to link a lob ball to the forwards, Pickens sends a lateral pass to the right flank where the ball bounces between a few Colorado players. A series of short passes eventually leaves the ball at the feet of Marvell Wynne, who lobs a long ball that ricochets off Red Bulls center back Carlos Mendes and into a gap in the Rapids' attacking zone.

A sprinting Nyassi picks up the deflection and immediately sends a shot from distance off the far post, which Thompson picks up and fires past a diving but ultimately helpless Frank Rost for the goal.

Nice touch passing by Colorado. Blown coverage by the Red Bulls back line that leaves Nyassi wide open. Rost left out to dry. One goal could not sum up the Red Bulls' troubles on Wednesday any better than that.

Don't Fear the 'Keeper. In recent weeks, Red Bulls supporters would cite the occasional Bouna blunder or Sutton slip to explain a perceived inconsistency in the club's goalkeeping efforts.

Wednesday's tilt should shake that sentiment immediately. Nyassi ran right through a center back pairing of Mendes and Tim Ream that entered the match with a mandate to keep Casey's successor at bay. They simply had no answer for Nyassi's speed and quick reflexes and largely watched him roast Rost all evening.

Rost gets his share of the blame for being the man between the posts on the wrong side of a rout, but he did what he could including a nice save that prevented Thompson from getting a brace.

Even legendary German 'keeper Oliver Kahn would not have fared any better with such a poor defensive effort from a club that signed a shot stopper as its third designated player to cover up these troubles.

Minus 11. That's the interception differential for the Red Bulls, who picked off 10 balls as compared to 21 by Colorado.

It was merely a minus two before the half (eight interceptions for the Rapids, six for the Red Bulls), but that disparity illustrates how the Rapids defense -- led by the efforts of Drew Moor and team captain Pablo Mastroeni -- kept New York at arm's length from the penalty area all evening. Not only did the Rapids cut off the Red Bulls' passing lanes, they shut them down by assuming possession.

House of Horrors. New York, who now trail by two losses in the all-time series against the Rapids (Colorado leads 16-14-5), has not won a match in the Centennial State since a 1-0 victory at Colorado on July 8, 2007.

The Red Bulls have only accrued one win in eight matches since then with a 3-1 win last September, although they defeated the Rapids at Red Bull Arena in US Open Cup play in May 2010.

Unlike a pilot mishap on Tuesday that left the club arriving in the wrong airport, New York likely won't care which airport lets them leave their poor performance behind as they head home to face FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. First kick is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Colorado Rapids

July, 20, 2011
7/20/11
12:31
PM ET
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 MLSsoccer.com 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.

Red Bulls trade Austin da Luz to D.C. United

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
11:31
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According to a statement on the team's website, the Red Bulls traded 23-year-old midfielder Austin da Luz to D.C. United on Monday. The move completes a weekend transaction between the Eastern Conference rivals in which D.C. United sent an international spot to New York in return for future considerations.

"We are excited to be adding a quality left-sided midfielder to our team," said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper in a press release on the club's website. "Austin is a very smart, technical player who is just coming into his own as a professional, and we are excited about his future."

Da Luz has one goal and one assist in seven appearances in MLS play this season including four games started, but has seen his playing time diminish in recent weeks as various players returned from injuries and international duty commitments.

He last appeared in a regular season match as a late substitute in the 82nd minute against D.C. United on July 9 and had not received significant playing time since receiving the starting nod against the Seattle Sounders on June 23.

Da Luz, who joined the Red Bulls in 2010 after completing a decorated collegiate career at Wake Forest University, also played the full 90 as part of the baby Bulls squad that fell to the Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup quarterfinal match on July 12.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe now finds himself with one less player in his rotation as he juggles the team's upcoming matches at Colorado against the Rapids on Wednesday and at home on Saturday against FC Dallas as well as the upcoming Emirates Cup doubleheader in London next week. Backe has not hidden his frustration with the mixed results produced by the vaunted Red Bulls midfield which previously included da Luz as a member.

"I think if you look at the balance in our midfield, it's a lot of so-called football players, technical skill, pace. But we could see normally it's only Teemu Tainio who's winning 50-50 balls for us," Backe said to the Wall Street Journal on July 12. "And even if you are a so-called football player, technical wise, you just need to use your body. You need to step out in a better pressing game, win 50-50's because that's normally where the battle is, it's in midfield."

The trade follows a pair of player transactions over the weekend in which the Red Bulls loaned goalkeeper Greg Sutton to the NASL's Montreal Impact for the remainder of the season in order to clear a roster spot for German 'keeper Frank Rost, who officially signed with New York on Friday.

D.C. United previously executed another trade with New York on June 27 in which D.C. received attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario in exchange for defensive midfielder Dax McCarty.

RBNY Recap: Lack of scoring can't separate Red Bulls from Goats

July, 17, 2011
7/17/11
1:08
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Unfortunately, the only thing the Red Bulls managed to score this weekend was the wrong opponent.

While La Liga legends Real Madrid manhandled the Los Angeles Galaxy across town at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, New York's scoreless streak extended to 181 minutes (or 271 minutes, if you count their poor showing in the US Open Cup quarterfinal) as they completed a scoreless draw against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center on Saturday. New netminder Frank Rost did not accrue a save in his debut as the Goats failed to register a shot on target.

Chivas 'keeper Dan Kennedy did not exactly endure a barrage of shots, either. Joel Lindpere took the only shot on target for the Red Bulls in the first half, though New York created a bit more offensive pressure in the second half to no avail.

Saturday's draw temporarily gives New York (6-4-11, 29 pts) a one-point boost into first place in the Eastern Conference, though the Philadelphia Union (7-4-7, 28 pts) face the New England Revolution on Sunday evening.

Righteous Ref. There's an old saying that the best referees are invisible, which means you only notice them when they screw up a call.

That rule of thumb isn't fair to referee Mark Kadlecik and his crew, who showed great poise in the waning moments of the match. Carlos Mendes deflected a Chivas corner kick from a scrum in the Red Bulls' penalty area, only to have Kadlecik call him for a handball -- which would result in a penalty kick for the Goats in the 90th minute.

Kadlecik did not have the best view of the play and instead of going with his gut, he conferred with his assistant referee who had a better view and later overturned the call. (The replay showed the ball deflected off Mendes's shoulder.) So if you're devious enough to criticize the refs for every misstep, you should also be gracious enough to tip your cap when they get one right.

Play of the Game: Tainio's Exit. The Red Bulls largely crumbled under the Chivas pressure for the first two-thirds of Saturday's match.

When Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli finally completed a pair of lateral passes across the length of the pitch, it broke the Chivas pressure and opened up the Red Bulls attack. Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, and even Roy Miller logged shots on target shortly thereafter while a Tainio miss in the 82nd minute started to show why the Goats relinquished goals after the 80th minute in three of their past five matches.

Moments later, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe substituted out Tainio for Mehdi Ballouchy, who added little to the Red Bulls attack. Agudelo logged one more shot in stoppage time, but the change in tempo was notable. Backe's curious decision to send his first substitute in the 84th minute had stifled the attack he intended to support.

It's Miller Time. After battling through a few games where he turned over the ball as much as he passed it, Roy Miller played as effective a game as you'll see all season. He completed 67 passes from the left flank while losing possession 14 times, which bettered all but Mendes with that ratio on Saturday. The Red Bulls possession game was thrust upon him, and he didn't wilt under the pressure.

Eight. That's how many of New York's 11 draws have come on the road this season. The have logged seven of those eight ties since their only road win in 2011 against D.C. United on April 21.

In and Out. Before the Red Bulls kicked off against the Rojiblancos on Saturday, they passed along two pieces of player info regarding Agudelo and Canadian 'keeper Greg Sutton.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced his two picks for the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon, with Agudelo receiving the honor along with Sporting forward Omar Bravo.

Later in the afternoon, the Red Bulls finally resolved their extraneous goalkeeper situation by loaning Sutton to the NASL's Montreal Impact for the remainder of this season.

New York has another large hill to climb as they prepare for the return match against the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday. First kick is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

RBNY Recap: Crew steals draw from NY

June, 5, 2011
6/05/11
11:16
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Give the Red Bulls credit. They invented a new way to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory.

New York's winless streak stretched to six games on Saturday after Crew defender Rich Balchan's stoppage time strike in the 92' minute brought Columbus level in time for a 1-1 draw. The Red Bulls led for most of the game after Mehdi Ballouchy chipped a cross from Luke Rodgers inside the right post in the ninth minute. Rodgers and a healthy Thierry Henry did not find a much-needed insurance goal while leading a depleted Red Bulls roster suffering from Gold Cup duties and injuries.

The club's fourth consecutive draw leaves NY with a 4-2-7 record and two points behind a first-place Philadelphia Union club that also earned a draw on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.

Take the Lead. Ballouchy's goal gave the Red Bulls their first lead in MLS play since conceding a 1-0 lead in the 12' minute of NY's 2-2 draw to the Houston Dynamo on May 21. The Moroccan midfielder's strike also ends a streak of 267 consecutive minutes without the lead.

New York only held the lead twice over any opponent in the month of May by way of a Dane Richards goal against Houston and an early Henry goal against the Galaxy being answered before halftime by Landon Donovan in the first match of the Red Bulls' ongoing winless streak.

Play of the Game: Ballouchy's Bad Touch. If not for a mental mistake by Ballouchy during stoppage time, he likely would have exited Red Bull Arena as Saturday's Man of the Match rather than the Goat of the Game.

Rather than clear the ball from the defensive zone, the Moroccan midfielder chose to provide the touch himself. A sloppy backheel by Ballouchy enabled Crew forward Justin Meram to take possession down the left flank and badly beat rookie defender Matt Kassel before delivering the cross which culminated in Balchan's equalizer.

That said, Ballouchy's gaffe will keep the conversation about the apparent dysfunction displayed on the pitch by NY instead of an ugly win. Players frequently flailed arms in frustration and expressed themselves on the pitch, which later carried over to a tense locker room scene after the match.

"Everyone is fuming in there," Luke Rodgers said to MLSsoccer.com after the match. "There's a lot of arguing."

Understandably so.

Forward Momentum. While the Ballouchy blunder brought the club's troubles back to the surface, it's worth noting that an insurance goal against a rebuilding Columbus side would have gone a long way to calming everyone's nerves.

Henry and Rodgers mustered three shots between them and none on target, while Ballouchy mustered three shots on his own (two on target) and defender Roy Miller adding one shot on target of his own.

Part of that falls on the forwards not bettering the chances for a strong finish. Part of that falls on a midfield that failed to raise the pressure on the Crew and left the forwards without service. All of it culminates with a New York club bearing Supporters' Shield expectations that cannot consistently get behind the back line by land or air.

Right to Ruin. Kassel only entered the match after Norwegian defender Jan Gunnar Solli exited in the 28' minute with what was later described as a hamstring injury. Solli will receive further evaluation on Monday before determining if the injury will add him to the club's litany of players missing in action.

The loss of Solli would only add to the black hole swallowing the Red Bulls' right side while Richards is out of action due to international duty.

A Who's Who of Who? Red Bulls coach Hans Backe tapped midfielder Austin da Luz for his first MLS start along with giving starting nods to defenders Carlos Mendes and Stephen Keel.

Calling the rookie trio into action further depleted Backe's depth, leaving the Red Bulls with Corey Herzog and John Rooney as substitutes after Kassel replaced Solli. (Alex Horwath was the reserve 'keeper.) Backe has indicated that he expects no further roster moves to supplement the club during the Gold Cup, but one wonders if that may change should Solli need to miss significant time.

W2W4: Red Bulls at Vancouver Whitecaps

May, 28, 2011
5/28/11
11:57
AM ET
New York takes another transcontinental trip this weekend as the Red Bulls make their inaugural visit to Empire Field on Saturday to face the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Red Bulls will look to leave their four-game winless streak in Rain City after battling the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena. Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers quickly answered two first-half goals by Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, saving the draw and giving New York a share of the first-place lead in the Eastern Conference.

Vancouver will look to find form at home after completing a transcontinental trip that only left the club with extra frequent flier miles. The Whitecaps saw a 1-0 lead in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship finale over Toronto FC washed out due to heavy rain and lightning. Vancouver will now replay the match in its entirety on Saturday, July 2 -- negating the go-ahead goal scored by 'Caps forward Eric Hassli.

Saturday's match will be the third regular season game in eight days for the Red Bulls. New York raised preparation concerns after the club's previous three-games-in-eight-days stretch, which included a friendly loss to the NASL's Montreal Impact and culminated with a 3-2 loss at home to Chivas USA by a Red Bulls club lacking proper form. It remains to be seen how Red Bulls coach Hans Backe modified the club's training regimen to account for the busy work week and the inherent schedule disruption.

However, Vancouver returns home to complete a busy week of its own. The club preceded its washout in Toronto on Wednesday with a 1-0 regular season loss at Gillette Stadium against the New England Revolution last Saturday. That's a three-game-in-eight-days stretch of Vancouver's own, with no positive results to show for it.

Key Matchup: Hans Backe vs. The Depth Chart. Though Dwayne De Rosario, Juan Agudelo, and Tim Ream will take the pitch one last time before departing to join their respective national teams, Gold Cup duties will preclude Dane Richards and Rafael Marquez from joining their teammates at Empire Field. Add in Henry's ongoing knee issue knocking him out of action in Saturday's match and the injuries keeping Carl Robinson and Chris Albright out indefinitely, and Backe will need to try everything to fill in the gaps.

Agudelo will once again get the call to fill in for the injured Henry but was largely invisible in starting last Saturday's draw to the Houston Dynamo and as a substitute against the Rapids. Mehdi Ballouchy filled in admirably for Richards on Wednesday but continues to lack a true position -- or even an obvious gap to fill -- in the Red Bulls' midfield. Defender Carlos Mendes filled in adequately for the injured Marquez but will only have one more outing to find form before possibly being asked to lead the back line.

Different Looks. While Backe knows that any further injuries will exponentially increase his depth problems, Vancouver head coach Teitur Thordarson will simply look for stability from his starting XI. Wednesday's match against Toronto FC represented the first time Thordarson used the same starting XI in two consecutive matches after never previously using that combination. Thordarson can repeat that one more time before Canadian midfielder Terry Dunfield departs for international duty with the Canucks.

"It's been a long time coming," 'Caps captain Jay DeMerit said to MLSsoccer.com about the consecutive starting XI feat. "That shows the roller coaster that we’ve been on this season."

Zero. That's how many wins were accrued by Vancouver since the club's 4-2 win over Toronto FC on March 19 -- also known as the first week of the season. The 'Caps have five draws and five losses over that stretch and have not scored more than one goal in any match since Camilo netted two stoppage-time strikes in a wild 3-3 draw against Sporting Kansas City on April 2. (The Brazilian striker is also goalless since a 3-1 loss on April 10 against the Houston Dynamo.)

Pop-Up Empire. Saturday's match represents New York's first match against the expansion Whitecaps and the club's first and last visit to Empire Field. Vancouver presently plays in a temporary pop-up stadium while the province executes renovations at B.C. Place, the permanent home for the 'Caps and the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions. It sits on the former site of Empire Stadium, the former home of the 'Caps during their NASL tenure in the 1970s and '80s, and features a FieldTurf playing surface -- making it New York's first match on FieldTurf this season.

RBNY Recap: Rapids takeaway NY's finish

May, 26, 2011
5/26/11
10:12
AM ET
It should always be easier to attack with the ball, even if the Red Bulls keep producing evidence to the contrary.

Despite a 62%-to-38% edge in possession over the Colorado Rapids during Wednesday's 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena, the defending MLS Cup champions put more shots on target than New York by a margin of 10 to six. A stout Rapids defense kept the potent Red Bulls attack in check with a +10 giveaway/takeaway margin, which was largely fueled by Colorado's execution of 30 takeaways as compared to 18 by New York.

"We couldn't break them up," said Red Bulls coach Hans Backe. "The creativity in the last third left not much and space and time for our players. Also, the passing game left too many unforced errors."

To improve on that disparity going forward, forward Luke Rodgers suggests picking up the offensive pace to create more pressure on opposing defenses.

"High tempo game," said Rodgers. "Keep pressing them aggressively. Do that and you’re going to score more goals."

Rodgers's sentiments about increasing the offensive pressure were also echoed by Dwayne De Rosario. "We just have to be a little more nasty and a little more hungry on winning every ball,” said the Canadian midfielder.

Miller Maligned. While much will be made of New York's continued troubles with defending against set pieces, the foul which set up Jeff Larentowicz's penalty kick gave New York a reason to gripe.

Referee Jorge Gonazlez awarded a penalty kick to Colorado after apparent contact in the penalty area by Red Bulls defender Roy Miller sent Rapids forward Andre Akpan to the ground. Replays showed that Miller made contact to right of the arc outside of the area, which would have resulted in a free kick but not an unobstructed penalty kick.

"I think it was a rash decision," said De Rosario. "I think the lineman should’ve stayed his ground and pointed outside the 18. It was what it was. The penalty is definitely questionable."

Jack of All Trades. Midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy played another solid game for New York and should expect to see his playing time increase with De Rosario and Dane Richards departing for the Gold Cup. The Moroccan midfielder admitted his desire to support his club in any way he can from the top three midfield positions.

"Whatever works for the team," said Ballouchy. "I’m the last guy to complain about position. If the coaching staff thinks I should play there, I would work on it and do my best."

Rapid Reaction: Red Bulls 2, Rapids 2

May, 25, 2011
5/25/11
10:13
PM ET
The New York Red Bulls and the Colorado Rapids played to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday evening at Red Bull Arena. Colorado twice took the lead in the first half courtesy of two goals by Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. New York quickly answered each goal with successive strikes by Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers.

By earning one point in the standings from the draw, the Red Bulls draw even with the Philadelphia Union atop the Eastern Conference standings with both clubs resuming action on Saturday.

Piece of Set. Once again, the Red Bulls conceded both goals from set pieces. Larentowicz opened the scoring in the 27' minute after finishing a rebound from his own penalty kick. He later helped Colorado regain the lead in the 33' minute from a free kick just to the right of the arc. New York led in possession throughout the game -- the Rapids did not get their first touch in the attacking zone until 7:34 into the match -- but cost themselves two more goals from bad fouls near their own penalty area.

Play of the Game: Ream's Kick Save on Casey. Perhaps Red Bulls coach Hans Backe should add his star sophomore into the goalkeeper conversation. With 'keeper Greg Sutton off his line, Tim Ream found himself in the 76' minute as the only thing standing in between Conor Casey and a Rapids' game-winning goal. Ream, while standing on the goal line, picked up the path of Casey's kick and batted it away from net. That gives Ream two bailout saves on the season, with the first coming on a Landon Donovan kick during the 1-1 draw to the LA Galaxy earlier this seaosn.

Ream quarterbacked an effective back line that endured the absence of Rafael Marquez, who missed Wednesday's game due to a groin injury. And he single-handedly saved the game for New York by inadvertently stepping in for Sutton.

Call and Answer. Although the Red Bulls surrendered two goals due to their ongoing free kick foibles, they responded in kind before the Rapids could truly savor the lead.

Two minutes after Larentowicz's first goal, Henry picked up a pinpoint cross from Dwayne De Rosario and buried it on the right side of the net. Larentowicz would score his second goal two minutes later, only to have Rodgers pick up a Roy Miller pass on the right side and lob it over the head of Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens for the equalizer.

The four goals in six minutes was the fastest in a game involving the Red Bulls, and the first occurrence since the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo accomplished the frenetic feat on March 28, 2009.

Feeling Possessed. The Red Bulls dominated possession at a 62%-to-38% clip, but failed to capitalize on it in the first half with several failed lob passes from the back line. New York kept the ball on the ground more effectively in the second half, with no positive results to show for it.

Odds and Ends. The Red Bulls learned before the match that De Rosario, Ream, and Juan Agudelo will join the club in its away trip this weekend before departing the team for international duty. Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and striker Robert Van Persie were among the 18,101 fans in attendance at Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls will take their four-game winless streak out West as they visit the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday at Empire Field. First kick is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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