New York Soccer: Dax McCarty

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.”

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at LA Galaxy

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
10:49
AM ET


Both the Red Bulls and Galaxy have not hesitated to put down their opponents ahead of their playoff clash on Thursday, but neither side can win on words alone.

The war of a million words will end with a single match on Thursday evening as the New York Red Bulls pay a visit to the Home Depot Center to face the Los Angeles Galaxy (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes) in the second leg of the MLS Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal round.

L.A. claimed a 1-0 victory in the contentious first leg at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon courtesy of a Mike Magee volley that caught the Red Bulls' defense on its heels. However, that early strike did nothing to assuage tempers as the match concluded with a brawl near center circle that left RBNY center back Stephen Keel on the ground while teammate Rafael Marquez and Galaxy midfielder Juninho received red cards for their roles in the melee.

Magee's finish of a David Beckham lob pass means the Red Bulls will need to score no less than two goals to advance to the Western Conference Final round. The MLS Playoffs semifinal round's two-legged, home-and-home format is decided by goals scored on aggregate, meaning the winner is the team with the most goals combined after both legs. L.A's current 1-0 lead on aggregate means a 1-0 Red Bulls lead at the end of regulation on Thursday would send the match into extra time and a possible penalty shootout, while a draw at the end of regulation would let the Galaxy advance.

Both sides know which club awaits them with a win on Thursday night, as Real Salt Lake held on to a 3-2 win on aggregate over the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night. RSL would host the Red Bulls next Sunday with a win, while the Claret-and-Cobalt would head to Los Angeles following a Galaxy victory by nature of L.A.'s home-field advantage resulting from their Supporters' Shield win.

Halfway House. To punch their ticket to Salt Lake City, New York needs to do what no MLS club has done this season -- defeat the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. L.A. boasts an unbeaten 12-0-5 record at home that includes an eight-game winning streak in MLS regular season play dating back to July 4.

L.A.'s home-field advantage may feel diminished due to the building's location, though. The HDC's presence on Cal State Dominguez Hill's campus involves an agreement that caps attendance at 15,000 for Galaxy weeknight games to allow parking for CSUDH students and faculty. CSUDH and the Galaxy reached an agreement to bump up that cap to 20,000 for Thursday's semifinal, but that still guarantees approximately 7,000 seats empty at first kick.

Key Matchup: Marquez's Replacement vs. Gonzalez. NY coach Hans Backe has a decision to make in replacing Rafa Marquez in the midfield, as the much-maligned midfielder's red card triggered an automatic one-game suspension for tonight's match. Red Bulls supporters may waiver in their support of Marquez following his inconsistent play on the field and provocative statements off it, but Rafa's form has trended upward since being moved into a defensive midfielder role from his earlier positioning at Tim Ream's center back partner.

Backe's decision to go with Dax McCarty, Stephane Auvray, Mehdi Ballouchy, or another plan entirely gets added emphasis when recalling why New York struggled to build pressure in the attacking third: Galaxy center back and MLS Defender of the Year candidate Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez seemingly broke down every attack on the middle, leading all players with nine intercepted balls and 14 cleared ones on Sunday according to the Opta Chalkboards.

New York will get some help on the wings with Jan Gunnar Solli returning from suspension, but that doesn't help establish any pressure in the middle on Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza. There may be a crack in the Galaxy defense with Juninho's absence, but that crack's only as wide as the distribution lanes created by Marquez's replacement.

Temper, Temper. The war of words between New York and Los Angeles dates back to Landon Donovan's comments about Luke Rodgers following the two sides' 1-1 draw in May. Rodgers citied Donovan's constant chirping with the referees, which provoked Donovan to respond "Who is Luke Rogers?" (sic) via Twitter.

It seemingly has heated up in recent days with Todd Dunivant saying to ESPNLosAngeles that he "(doesn't) think anyone fears the Red Bulls" and Donovan describing the Red Bulls as a "disgraceful" team of "cheap shot" artists.

New York returned in kind, with Backe describing his side as "on another level" and Rodgers citing Sunday's in-game taunts of "You're in my country now" from Galaxy 'keeper Josh Saunders during a Wednesday conference call as evidence that "that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones."

The final word will come with the referee's final whistle, but it remains to be seen if either side's tough talk will tilt Thursday's result in anyone's favor -- or distract them from a favorable result.

Foul Play. Donovan made waves by describing the Red Bulls as cheap, but the question unasked is: Does he have a point?

Since there's no way to measure intangibles like a little Thierry Henry bump in the run of play or an errant Joel Lindpere elbow in the box, there's no exact way to measure.

That said, there was a differential of three fouls per 90 minutes in the Galaxy's favor at the end of the MLS regular season. L.A. finished with a +1.6 foul differential, which means they suffered an average of 1.6 fouls per game more than they committed. New York, on the other hand, finished with the second-worst foul differential at -1.7 fouls per 90 minutes, which means they commit 1.7 more fouls than they suffer per game on average.

Attacking sides tend to draw more fouls while defensive ones tend to commit them, meaning the Red Bulls will need to remain disciplined to ensure Beckham doesn't wind up with any more free kicks than he needs on Thursday night.

Sustained Stampede. Tonight's first whistle will commence New York's fourth match in 14 days and third in three different cities over the past week. Backe indicated in an earlier conference call that he intends to pick his best 11 to start regardless of rest, but he'll also need to be leery of nagging injuries that have plagued the likes of Henry, Rodgers, and Teemu Tainio among others.

The Red Bulls coach doesn't like to use all of his substitutes, which continues to leave change-of-pace players like Ballouchy and Juan Agudelo on his bench. If endurance becomes an issue for a busy Red Bulls side -- especially in a deciding match that could go to extra time or penalty kicks -- who, if anyone, will Backe call upon to provide for a late-game burst?

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at FC Dallas

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
11:36
AM ET

The 2011 MLS Playoffs kick off in earnest on Wednesday evening as FC Dallas play host to the Red Bulls at Pizza Hut Park in a wild card clash that will end one club's postseason path courtesy of the round's one-and-done format.

For a Red Bulls side picked by many in the preseason to win MLS Cup outright, that's a welcome problem to have after needing all 34 regular season contests to earn the right to play tonight. They still can't sing their redemption song until FC Dallas has its say as the home side looks to better a 2010 MLS Cup runners-up finish.

However, one Red Bulls player who will have no say in Wednesday's result is English striker Luke Rodgers. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe confirmed on Tuesday that Rodgers would miss Wednesday's match due to treatment of a knee injury incurred during the club's regular season finale win against the Philadelphia Union last Thursday.

New York came out on top of their regular season confrontations against FCD in 2011. A late Thierry Henry equalizer answered a second-half brace by Martin Chavez and salvaged a 2-2 draw against FCD at Red Bull Arena on July 25, while Rodgers provided all of the offense in a 1-0 win at Pizza Hut Park on Sept. 17 that reignited the Red Bulls' late playoff push.

Luke Out. The Red Bulls will undoubtedly miss their freshman forward, especially considering the club is 1-9-4 in matches without the pesky Rodgers in the starting XI -- with the sole win coming against the Seattle Sounders during MLS First Kick festivities back on March 19. They also posted a 4-2-1 record down the stretch following Rodgers' return from a bout with plantar fasciitis that kept their English striker on the shelf for most of the summer.

Rodgers undoubtedly unlocked the Red Bulls' inconsistent attack with his presence up top and his pressure against opposing back lines, just as he did in scoring the game's only goal against FC Dallas in September. But he did the dirty work in that match despite the club missing Henry and Roy Miller due to injury as well as Jan Gunnar Solli and Rafael Marquez due to suspensions. New York may lack the guy who finished off FCD, but they will have four capable contributors this time to pick up the slack.

Key Matchup: Shea vs. McCarty. Another key player to miss that September match was FCD winger and team-leading scorer Brek Shea, who also served a one-game suspension on that date due to yellow card accumulation. The young Shea, who netted 11 goals in 31 appearances in 2011, experienced a breakout season drawing league MVP considerations in addition to rave reviews regarding his contributions to the U.S. Men's National Team.

Shea will appear in FCD coach Schellas Hyndman's starting lineup, and Backe will likely counter with Shea's former teammate in defensive midfielder Dax McCarty. McCarty will likely be charged with shutting down any activity by Shea on the right flank, as Solli tends to push up in an offensive-minded role from his right fullback position while regular right midfielder Dane Richards likely starts up top in place of the injured Rodgers.

That leaves McCarty, a player suspended by the club in the Red Bulls' penultimate match at Sporting Kansas City for an "internal team matter" as well as one who has seen his playing time diminish in concert with Marquez's return to a defensive midfielder role. Add in the burden of being the player New York received from D.C. United in exchange for 2011 Golden Boot winner Dwayne De Rosario and the expectations thrust on McCarty could not be higher.

But hey, no pressure.

Make It Stop. New York captured a 1-0 victory against FC Dallas in September, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the former's part. FCD created more than double New York's chances on net in that match, with seven of their 18 attempts registering as a shot on target as compared to only two of New York's seven attempts.

That onslaught came about without Shea, Chavez (also suspended for yellow card accumulation) and injured midfielder David Ferreira. It also came in a busy stretch for FCD that came about due to CONCACAF Champions League commitments as well as with a melancholy mood following the death of club dignitary Bobby Rhine. New York escaped that match with a win, but will need stronger defensive contributions from Tim Ream, Stephen Keel, and others to prevent FCD from implementing a similar style.

Press On. With an FCD back line including effective contributions from George John, Zach Loyd, and others, Hyndman will likely call upon the defensive press he used to paralyze the Red Bulls attack in both regular season matches. If Marquez and Teemu Tainio can't link up to the forwards or Joel Lindpere struggles to join the attack on the left side, FCD could once again impose its defensive will on the Red Bulls and bide its time until a scoring chance presents itself.

Get Your Kicks. Tonight's match is a winner-take-all affair, which means New York can't sneak out with one of its patented draws this time around. In the event that the score is tied at the end of regulation, two 15-minute periods of extra time would ensue to determine a winner. And if that fails to yield a result, the game would then advance to a penalty shootout.

New York hasn't converted a penalty kick since Sept. 24 against the Portland Timbers -- and Rodgers netted that one. Backe reportedly did not practice penalty kicks before his players boarded the plane for Dallas on Tuesday, while the club's uncertainty on their primary free kick taker never really resolved itself. Anything could happen in a penalty shootout, including the order which Backe picks for his side's participation.

Rapid Reax: Sporting KC 2, Red Bulls 0

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
5:59
PM ET
A quick temper may make a fool of Thierry Henry if New York fails to make the MLS Playoffs.

Henry's 28th-minute red card for a retaliatory hit on midfielder Roger Espinoza near the center circle left the Red Bulls short-handed for more than an hour in a 2-0 loss against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday afternoon.

The ejection also means the Red Bulls will head into their season finale match with their playoff lives at stake and without their team captain, who now must serve an automatic one-game suspension for his red card.

Despite creating ample scoring chances before and after Henry's exit, Sporting KC did not break through until phenom forward Teal Bunbury finally finished a Julio Cesar pass in the 57th minute to put the home side up for good. Second-half substitute C.J. Sapong added the insurance goal in the 74th minute by connecting a volley at the six-yard box past a helpless Frank Rost to remove any doubt about the match's ultimate result -- and despite entering the match only 40 seconds earlier.

Saturday's draw blows the MLS playoff race wide open as it gives both D.C. United (9-11-11, 38 pts) and the Portland Timbers (11-14-7, 40 points) a clearer postseason path at the expense of the Red Bulls (9-8-16, 43 points). D.C. plays Saturday night against a Chicago Fire side with no meaningful games left to play this season before kicking off against Portland next Wednesday. New York remains in control of its playoff tiebreakers, but now needs D.C. United to concede a loss or draw to re-establish its grip on a suddenly fleeting wild-card berth.

Play of the Game: Henry's Red Card. After quelling an early burst by the Sporting KC attack, the Red Bulls imposed their "cynical soccer" routine into a match that quickly devolved into a war of attrition.

And then the game experienced its first casualty. Referee Kevin Stott showed Henry a straight red card in the 28th minute for what was described as "violent conduct" -- but was actually Henry putting his knee into Espinoza's back mere moments after Espinoza intercepted Henry's run and despite Henry having ample opportunity to avoid it. That left the Red Bulls short-handed for more than an hour on Saturday afternoon in a match where they controlled their own destiny.

Barring a reversal by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, the red card means Henry will miss next Thursday's finale against Philadelphia that New York now needs to win if D.C. gets hot and his pursuit of the Golden Boot likely comes to an end if either D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario or San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski net one goal in their remaining games. Any lingering sentiments about awarding Henry with the league MVP award also just went out the window.

Hans Backe has said all season that Henry's backup, Juan Agudelo, isn't ready for the spotlight. Well, the teenage phenom better get ready and quick for the Red Bulls to have any shot at sealing their playoff fate.

Feeling Cornered. Harkening back to an early-season concern about set pieces, both Sporting Kansas City goals started from corner kicks and finished with a KC attacker striking a ball in a penalty-box scrum. New York actually received more corner kicks (six) than Sporting KC (five), but the latter clearly made the most of their chances to capitalize on their one-man advantage.

Chance After Chance. It's tough to win a soccer match if you don't score, but that was the trouble facing the Red Bulls before and after they lost their team captain. Bunbury and fellow KC forward Omar Bravo led the attacking efforts for the home side with 23 chances created and seven shots on goal, while the Red Bulls managed to muster only six attempts total that resulted in one clear Dane Richards shot on target that KC 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen punched skyward and a Joel Lindpere shot in the second half.

Dax Not There. One Red Bull that didn't make the trip to Kansas City was Dax McCarty. According to the MSG broadcast, the Red Bulls suspended their feisty defensive midfielder for one match due to what was only described as an "internal team matter" by a team spokesperson. He will be available for selection in the regular season finale against Philadelphia.

As Red Bulls coach Hans Backe continues to keep Rafael Marquez in the midfield, McCarty's playing time in recent weeks has suffered as a result. That likely would have continued on Saturday, though McCarty has seen playing time as a substitute off the bench and has curried more favor with Backe recently as opposed to Guadeloupan midfielder and former Sporting KCer Stephane Auvray (who did make the trip).

New York now returns home to sit and wait to see if they get help in short-circuiting D.C. United's playoff push before kicking off against the Philadelphia Union at home next Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

RBNY Recap: Henry saves another draw for Red Bulls in 1-1 result at Toronto FC

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
11:55
AM ET

New York almost made it a month without collecting a draw, but that's a point the Red Bulls will accept as the playoff race gets tight.

Thierry Henry's equalizer bailed out a lifeless New York Red Bulls defense to salvage his side's 16th draw of the season in a 1-1 result against Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday. Henry received a Dax McCarty corner kick near the penalty spot and connected a whirlwind kick to bounce home the Red Bulls' only goal in the 88th minute.

The French striker's 13th goal of the season answered a goal by TFC forward Danny Koevermans, who completed a counterattack against a sleepy Red Bulls defense to slot home a TFC goal in the 50th minute.

"I think they allowed us to do it cause they just dropped," said Henry on how the equalizer came about. "Instead of passing the ball through the lines and hurting us, they were just kicking it and giving us the ball back. That allowed us to put pressure on them and have some more opportunities and thankfully, we came back into the game."

The draw gives New York (8-7-16, 40 pts) a temporary one-point boost to their grip on the final wild card berth, but now leaves them scoreboard watching as both D.C. United (9-9-11, 38 pts) and the Portland Timbers (10-13-7, 37 pts) kick off on Sunday afternoon. The Red Bulls will also keep an eye on the Philadelphia Union (10-7-13, 43 pts), who sit two points in front of the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference's final automatic playoff berth and will play on Sunday evening as well. The slumping Columbus Crew (11-12-8, 41 pts) sit in between the Red Bulls and Union and will take the pitch on Sunday at Crew Stadium against D.C., who still have one game in hand on the Red Bulls.

Prestige Over Performance. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe elected to pick controversial defender Rafael Marquez over McCarty for Saturday's Starting XI, which gave the Red Bulls a notably more defensive-minded focus than it's seen in recent weeks against a Toronto FC side that has allowed a league-leading 56 goals this season. It also removed an effective cog in the Red Bulls' combined efforts of late, as McCarty has made himself present in his side's attack while leading the charge on recovering balls on defense.

McCarty eventually came on as a substitute for Marquez in the 79th minute. Henry scored nine minutes later, though the arrival of substitute Juan Agudelo also played a role in that result.

Play of the Game: Koeverman's Goal. The Dutch forward's opening strike may not elicit MLS Goal of the Week chatter, largely because it came about from a catastrophic failure of the Red Bulls' defense.

Toronto FC only gained possession in the moments prior to Koeverman's goal from a bad pass by Rafael Marquez being intercepted. As the Reds fired up their counterattack, both Marquez and Teemu Tainio jogged after Reds midfielder Ryan Johnson instead of engaging in full pursuit. Johnson dished the ball to Koeverman's on the left side past a Red Bulls back line that briefly halted its pressure after presuming the Dutchman was offside. He wasn't -- and he made the RBNY defense pay by tapping a ball off Frank Rost and inside the net for the match's first goal.

The goal seemed to snap the Red Bulls out of a malaise that hung over them for the first 50 minutes of the match, but the club's defense once again left New York chasing a lesser opponent's lead instead of burying them with one of their own.

Wake Up Time. New York's attack remained dormant until Koeverman's goal, with only two shots on target from six attempts on TFC backup 'keeper Milos Kocic to show for their efforts. That picked up in the second half, with the Red Bulls creating four shots on target from nine chances, culminating in Henry's goal in the waning moments of the match and a satisfying performance for the club's head coach.

"The work ethic was phenomenal in the second half," said Backe. "The way we controlled the game, the passing game, the number of chances, a lot of crosses (left us) very close to scoring. To respond after being one down like that, I'm quite pleased with the performance."

Fit to be Tied. The Red Bulls have reached half time all tied up with their opponent on 13 occasions this season. Of those 13 matches, New York has only won once -- the season opener against the Seattle Sounders on March 19. Since then, the Red Bulls are 0-3-9 in matches level at halftime. The trend itself may be an anomaly, which leaves Jan Gunnar Solli with a sense of optimism following another draw than another loss.

"A little bit unlucky tonight that we didn't score more goals," said Solli. "In the end, to get one point away -- that's good for us, especially when there was seven, eight minutes left in the game and then we scored. I was really happy with the boys."

14. Henry's late heroics netted the Red Bulls team captain his first goal in six matches (if you count the FC Dallas win, which Henry missed due to injury). That scoring drought left Henry chasing the league leader in goals scored and a familiar face to both New York and Toronto FC.

So who is the current Golden Boot favorite? D.C. United attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario.

New York gets no time to lick their wounds following their draw at Toronto as they head home to face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Tuesday (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes) at Red Bull Arena in a make-up match of the one postponed due to Hurricane Irene.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Toronto FC

October, 1, 2011
10/01/11
11:40
AM ET
Two out of three wins ain't bad. Three out of four would be better.

That's the mindset of a New York Red Bulls side looking to keep their recent momentum going as they head north of the border to kick off against Toronto FC on Saturday evening. New York heads to BMO Field with heads held high following a solid 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers at Red Bull Arena last Saturday as well as a decisive 5-0 romp over the Reds in the first leg of their regular season encounters on July 6.

Toronto FC returns home this weekend with their attention divided as they play out the string in the MLS regular season while focusing their efforts on staying alive in the CONCACAF Champions League. Danny Koevermans has netted four goals in as many games for TFC in combined MLS and Champions League play, lifting the Reds to a 1-1 draw against Mexican side Pumas last Tuesday while failing to appear on the score sheet against Chivas USA last Saturday.

A Thurdsay win for the Philadelphia Union (10-7-13, 43 pts) kept D.C. United (9-9-11, 38 pts) out of the playoff picture for the time being, though DCU still owns a game in hand on the Red Bulls (8-7-15, 39 pts) and their tenuous grip on the final wild card berth. New York now sits two points behind a fourth-place Columbus Crew (11-12-8, 41 pts) club mired in a three-game winless streak and three points behind the Houston Dynamo (10-9-12, 42 pts) for the Eastern Conference's final automatic playoff berth.

The New Guys. New York will kick off against a very different Toronto FC side then the one they faced at Red Bull Arena this summer, though they've expected the new look since that match in July.

The Reds acquired Koevermans and German midfielder Torsten Frings as designated players during the summer transfer window, but neither international was eligible for selection by TFC coach Aron Winter due to transfer rules. The designated duo has given a much-needed boost to a Canadian side in full-on rebuild mode. Koevermans has six goals across that eight-game stretch, while Frings has boosted a struggling TFC defense as a midfielder and a static sweeper in Winter's 4-3-3 system. New York didn't have many to worry about in round one against the Reds; the same won't be said for the rematch.

Key Matchup: Marquez vs. The Guy He's Replacing. Saturday's match will mark the first appearance for Rafael Marquez since unloading on his teammates about their level of play as compared to the caliber of the Mexican defender. The comments themselves may have faded in the background, but the stellar play of center back combination Tim Ream and Stephen Keel has not.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe has two options for Marquez. Start him over Keel or Carlos Mendes in the back and let him reestablish the chemistry with Ream which powered the Red Bulls defense earlier this season, or bump him up into a defensive midfield role at the expense of the recently-effective and offensive-minded Dax McCarty. In one instance, Backe picks Marquez over the hot hand. On the other, Backe removes a weapon from his offensive arsenal by benching McCarty in a possible 4-5-1 formation that might also see Luke Rodgers ride pine.

Most coaches would kill for that kind of problem, but most coaches don't have to deal with the cloud of controversy following Marquez. If Backe gets this one wrong, it could undo the positive momentum built by the Red Bulls in recent weeks.

The Missing Link? It oversimplifies the Red Bulls' recent success to say that the return of Luke Rodgers made it possible, but the correlation between New York's winning ways and the English striker's contributions is likely more than chance. Rodgers has a goal in each recent Red Bulls win and two in the three matches he's played since returning from a bout of plantar fasciitis, including a penalty kick that gave New York it's first two-goal lead in over three months.

And the last match Rodgers played in before his feet failed him? Against Toronto FC on July 6, in a match where Rodgers scored the second of the Red Bulls' five goals.

Stacking the Deck. If the Red Bulls attack intends to impose its will on the TFC back line, it will need to focus on providing service to Henry and Rodgers through a formation built on five in the back for the Reds. Winter beefs up his back line when his opponent calls for it -- and an opponent that has scored in all but one of its non-Real Salt Lake matches since last kicking off against TFC would qualify as such a special opponent.

Frings will likely resume his role as a de-facto sweeper between Andy Iro and Ty Harden, with Ashtone Morgan and Matt Stinson as TFC's fullbacks. Separate, they have their troubles. Together, they should create sufficient traffic between the Red Bulls and the goal area minded by TFC 'keeper Stefan Frei.

Road Warriors. Much has been made of the Red Bulls' troubles away from their namesake arena, with their league-leading nine road draws supporting that argument. However, New York hits the road following a gutsy road win against a beleaguered FC Dallas club that restored New York's confidence as much as its place in the standings.

Even with two wins in the away column, the FCD win demonstrated that the Red Bulls can win away from home. A win at Toronto FC would further cement it for a club whose present playoff state dictates more road games to come following the conclusion of the MLS regular season.

RBNY Recap: Red Bulls take playoff hopes to next level in win vs. Timbers

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
12:29
PM ET
Apparently, a bout of "foot-in-mouth" disease can extend to your opponent's goalmouth.

As a suspended Rafael Marquez watched from the owner's box on Saturday due to a one-game suspension for his disparaging comments regarding his teammates' form, the Red Bulls struck twice in a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers at Red Bull Arena. Dane Richards outran Timbers midfielder Diego Chara and tapped a ball across the goalmouth and inside the far post in the 21st minute for the game's first goal, while Luke Rodgers converted a penalty kick in the 66th minute to add some breathing room on the score sheet. Frank Rost collected three saves en route to his second clean sheet and MLS regular season win of the season.

By collecting a valuable three points in the standings over the Timbers (10-13-7, 37 pts), New York (8-7-15, 39 pts) maintains their tenuous hold on the final wild card berth while picking up the valuable win-loss tiebreaker over Portland. D.C. United (9-8-11, 38 pts) remains one point back with two games in hand on the Red Bulls following their decisive 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

However, the Eastern Conference's automatic berths experienced a shakeup as the Houston Dynamo (10-9-12, 42 pts) leapfrogged into first place courtesy of a losing Columbus Crew (11-11-8, 41 pts) side and a draw between Sporting Kansas City (10-9-11, 41 pts) and the Philadelphia Union (9-7-13, 40 pts). According to MLSsoccer.com's Playoff Standings, the Red Bulls now sit two points behind Sporting KC for the conference's final spot in what Red Bulls coach Hans Backe believes is now a wide-open playoff chase for his club.

“I think it is up to us now," said Backe. "We will need to win two or three games to have a chance. We have the chance now, it’s up to us and we have three games at home. But of course, the key game that counts in Philly will probably show if we are in the playoffs or not.”

Plus-11. That's the recovery differential on balls in the middle and attacking thirds for the Red Bulls over Portland on Saturday. The Timbers created a comparable number of attempts (15) on goal as compared to New York (12), but it was an effective and organized defensive press by the Red Bulls that stifled the Portland attack all evening. Dax McCarty led that charge with five recoveries in the middle and final third in what was an all-around solid effort for all defensive parties involved.

"We kind of got back to defending first and foremost; kind of how we had it in Dallas," said Stephen Keel, who started in place of the suspended Marquez. "Cynical defending is what they want to call it. Just keeping everything in front of us, nice and organized, keep everything tight and keep a clean sheet.”

Play of the Game: Rodgers' Penalty Kick. It wasn't as sexy as Richards's opener, as the Jamaican midfielder sprinted past Chara and effectively crossed the ball across the goalmouth for a dramatic finish. And the circumstances making the penalty kick possible -- Timbers midfielder Kalif Alhassan received a straight red card in the 64th minute for a handball at the goal line on a Thierry Henry shot -- merely delayed the inevitable.

When Rodgers struck his right-footed shot from the spot past a diving Troy Perkins and inside the left post, it was fundamental but nonetheless significant. Rodgers's goal gave the Red Bulls their first two-goal lead over any opponent since going up 2-0 on the New England Revolution on June 10. Insurance goals have not been a strong suit for the Red Bulls all season, which made the penalty kick all the more important and the cathartic effect of a Red Bulls club coping with a teammate's criticisms all the more satisfying.

"We came in at halftime down a goal, but still felt we were definitely in it," said Timbers team captain Jack Jewsbury. "In the second half I thought we were banging on the door to get that tying goal. Next thing you know, the penalty is called and all of a sudden we’re down a man. Down two goals and a man is tough anyway, especially away from home.”

They were up by a wide margin over an expansion side that has yet two score two goals in a match away from home in MLS. That's a recipe for success every time.

Six in the Mix. The Red Bulls drew comparisons after Saturday's match to their gutty shutout at FC Dallas last weekend, citing the specific absence of Marquez and the solid defensive efforts by a patchwork back four producing a clean sheet for Rost.

However, one critical difference comes on the offensive ends. New York created six attempts on goal against FCD, while they produced 15 against the Timbers at home. That offensive output resulted in six Red Bulls -- Richards, Rodgers, Henry, Joel Lindpere, Jan Gunnar Solli, and Carlos Mendes -- combining to take the club's eight shots on target. It looks doubly impressive against a Timbers side that collected two shots on target before halftime and one afterwards. New York balanced their intensity across all facets of their game on Saturday, which defender Tim Ream acknowledges was long overdue.

"“Actually we needed to do that starting six, seven, even 10 games ago," said Ream. "That’s something that we really made a conscious effort on coming into this game. it definitely paid off for us, getting a solid 2-0 win and three points and putting us right back into the playoff picture.”

Miss Marquez Much? Speaking of Ream, he came under fire in recent days after being singled out by Marquez in the Mexican defender's post-game comments on Saturday. According to Empire of Soccer, Marquez described his back line partner as "a young player with a lot to learn" and criticized the sophomore center back for committing "errors that are very infantile and cost us goals." So, did it get to Ream?

"“Honestly, I think it would have happened even if the comments weren’t made," Ream said to MLSsoccer.com. "After you take a solid 3-1 beating, you have something to prove. We wanted to prove it was a fluke and that wasn’t who we are. We put our heads down more because of the way we played [on Wednesday], not because of the comments.”

25,008 Strong. The Red Bulls have had their share of sellouts this season, but some of those attendance numbers felt a bit padded with marketing techniques such as announcing the seats sold as compared to seats filled. That wasn't the case on Saturday, as a racuous crowd of 25,008 fans arrived to create an electric atmosphere just three days after a match that saw Red Bulls supporters booing Rafa Marquez's every touch.

New York now gets a week to prepare to travel north of the border for a match against a revamped Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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: 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: Henry salvages draw vs. FCD

July, 24, 2011
7/24/11
11:53
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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
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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.

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

July, 18, 2011
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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.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Chivas USA

July, 16, 2011
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The Red Bulls will call upon German goalkeeper Frank Rost to stop the club's struggles as New York heads west to face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center on Saturday.

New York's newly-acquired Bundesliga veteran is expected to mind the net for a Red Bulls side that fell to longtime rival D.C. United last Saturday with a 1-0 loss in which exiled midfielder Dwayne De Rosario burned the man he was traded for, Dax McCarty, en route to scoring the game's only goal.

Chivas USA will look to put the wind back in their sails after Sporting KC forward Omar Bravo converted a Hail Mary medley of headers in stoppage time to steal a 1-1 draw at Livestrong Sporting Park last Saturday. However, the Goats carry the goodwill of a May 15 win at Red Bull Arena in which Chivas forward Justin Braun netted his first career hat trick.

New York (6-4-10, 28 pts) finds itself entangled in a first-place tie atop the Eastern Conference after the Philadelphia Union (7-4-7, 28 pts) collected a point in a scoreless draw at San Jose last Saturday.

Frost's Fast Fix. Rost's arrival may spell the end of Greg Sutton's or Bouna Coundoul's tenure with the team, but the Red Bulls did not sign their third designated player to practice addition by subtraction.

Despite not practicing with his new club for the first time until midway through Friday's practice as he finalized his visa and international transfer clearance, the former Hamburg 'keeper, whose acquisition Red Bulls GM Erik Solér described to MLSsoccer.com on Friday as "the Big One," will be expected to find his form quickly and erase any lingering memories of Bouna blunders or Sutton stasis. Rost's arrival suspends the club's goalkeeper debate. His performance will determine the length of that suspension.

Key Matchup: NY's Holding Midfield vs. Chivas USA's Front Four. Braun will adorn the headlines heading into Saturday's match for his trio of goals at Red Bull Arena, but Chivas midfielder Nick LaBrocca will attract just as much attention from New York's defensive efforts. LaBrocca has scored a goal in each of the Goats' past three games and has demonstrated a productive form that's earning him All-Star consideration.

A quick glance at the Goats' recent Opta Chalkboards reflects how the Chivas attack applies sufficient pressure to provoke opposing defenses to squeeze passes into traffic -- only to have said passes be intercepted by the Chivas midfield. Chivas recovered more balls then Chicago and San Jose in the middle and final thirds, while Sporting KC withstood the pressure by sufficiently pressing back.

That's where McCarty and Teemu Tainio come in. Any pressing back by New York will require a firm midfield to help with transitions and keep the likes of Braun and LaBrocca without service. When Chivas decides to push up, it's on McCarty and Tainio to hold firm.

Forward Footing. New York should have Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers, and Juan Agudelo at its disposal against Chivas and will rely heavily on the trio to stretch out the Goats' compact defense. Rodgers and Henry rained eight shots on the DC net last Saturday, but only one by Henry ended up on target.

The Chivas center back duo of Heath Pearce and Michael Umana have a better defensive reputation than DC's back line and can disrupt the Red Bull forwards if there isn't sufficient service -- especially if Henry keeps coming back into the midfield to get the ball as he has in recent weeks.

Two. That's how many of the 18 games Chivas have played this season in which they finished with more than a one-goal differential -- win or lose. A 2-0 win over San Jose on July 6 and 3-0 win over the New England Revolution on April 30 represent the only times in which the Goats experienced distance from their opponents on the scoreboard. Which makes it that much more important for New York to play...

The Full 90. Much has been made of New York's many missed opportunities this season with 10 draws to their record, but Chivas is one club that will not poke fun at that futility. The Goats have conceded points in the standings in three of their last five matches by surrendering goals after the 80th minute of play.

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