New York Soccer: Landon Donovan

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.”

Rapid Reax: Galaxy 2, Red Bulls 1

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
1:01
AM ET
Heading into Thursday's semifinal finale against the Galaxy, a draw was as good as a loss to the Red Bulls' playoff chances. An actual loss just removed all doubt.

Los Angeles answered an early go-ahead goal by Luke Rodgers with two of their own to eliminate the Red Bulls from the MLS Playoffs with a 2-1 win at the Home Depot Center on Thursday evening. Mike Magee and Landon Donovan provided all of the scoring for the Galaxy as the former headed home an equalizer before halftime while the latter converted a penalty kick in the 75th minute to seal the win for the Supporters Shield winners, who now prepare to kick off at home against Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Final match on Sunday.

Luke Rodgers set the attacking tone for the Red Bulls in the 4th minute by finding himself on the receiving end of a Thierry Henry through ball and catching Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez out of position. Rodgers trotted into the penalty area and casually pushed a right-footed shot past a diving Josh Saunders to give the Red Bulls an early 1-0 lead.

That lead didn't make it to halftime as L.A.'s hero at Red Bull Arena last Sunday, Mike Magee, connected a header in the 42nd minute from a David Beckham corner kick. That makes for two consecutive games in which Magee and Beckham provided all of the Galaxy's scoring, with both goals culminating from plays initiated by free kicks. A second-half foul by Red Bulls fullback Roy Miller sent the home side to the penalty spot, enabling Donovan to collect the game winner with a right-footed shot past Red Bulls shot stopper Frank Rost.

The loss officially ends the 2011 season for the New York Red Bulls. It also leaves them exiting the MLS Playoffs in the same round last season when the San Jose Earthquakes eliminated New York in the second leg of their playoff semifinal home-and-home series.

Play of the Game: Beckham's Bad Bounce. A David Beckham header in the 31st minute of a ball cleared by the Galaxy back line looked innocent enough. Beckham tracked the ball down and connected with it before the shorter Dane Richards could sneak in. The play moved into the Galaxy's attacking third -- but Beckham didn't.

The English midfielder struggled to get to his feet and stayed put when he did, just bending over with his hands on his head before crumpling to the ground. A Galaxy trainer escorted him off the field and provided Beckham with smelling salts before the midfielder would return to the game. It took him a while to get his bearings, but when he did, it finished with Magee putting the ball in the back of the net for an L.A. equalizer.

Whatever sent Beckham to the ground, it wasn't enough to mitigate his impact on the game. The Galaxy's chances hung in the balance, and the club's designated player did not disappoint by helping to ensure L.A. supporters would see their club play once more at home this season.

Four. That's how many shots Galaxy striker Robbie Keane attempted before halftime, which, along with his two shots on target, led all players at the break. Keane had ample opportunities to draw his side level before Magee's equalizer, but found himself frustrated in the penalty area by effective defense by Tim Ream, the goal post, and Red Bulls 'keeper Frank Rost making up for his own mistakes. His efforts ended up not hurting his club's chances, but he gets paid designated player monies to finish the chances he failed to convert on Thursday.

Feeling Foul. New York learned before the match that the MLS Disciplinary Committee extended Rafael Marquez's suspension from one match to three, which would have theoretically eliminated him from the remainder of the Red Bulls' postseason run regardless of Thursday's result.

Rather than practice restraint against a Galaxy side that's disciplined in drawing fouls, the Red Bulls went for broke. Rodgers created early tension by picking up a yellow card mere moments after scoring the match's opening goal, while a second-half yellow for Henry earned the Red Bulls team captain an automatic one-game suspension for accrued cards. Those penalties now carry over to the start of the 2012 MLS Season after Thursday's loss.

Déjà Vu. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, the scoring script wound up one goal and one minute shy of perfectly following their initial encounter against the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center in May. Like Rodgers, Henry opened the scoring in that match in the 4th minute. Unlike Magee, Donovan answered the early Red Bulls lead with an game-tying strike in the 41st minute -- just one minute shy of Magee's 42nd-minute equalizer. That result was enough to finish off the Red Bulls, with Donovan's penalty kick merely providing the exclamation point.

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?

RBNY Recap: Red Bulls, Galaxy come to blows as Magee gives L.A. a 1-0 lead

October, 30, 2011
10/30/11
10:03
PM ET
Rafael Marquez likely did not plan to leave himself with only a puncher's chance at playing meaningful soccer again in 2011.

In the waning moments of the Red Bulls' 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Red Bull Arena in the first leg of the MLS Playoffs Western Conference semifinal round, Marquez came as close as any of his teammates at finding the back of the net for an equalizer.

He picked up a Thierry Henry deflection of a Joel Lindpere cross near the arc in the 91st minute and fired a shot through traffic that a diving Galaxy 'keeper Josh Saunders somehow punched back out. Henry put the rebound off the woodwork, but the moment to draw level with the 2011 Supporters Shield winners in stoppage time came and went with Marquez.

Then Marquez himself came and went from the series entirely. Referee Alex Prus blew the whistle four minutes after Marquez's scoring chance and with the ball at the frustrated Mexican defender's feet, which left Marquez venting his frustrating by throwing the ball at Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan.

Galaxy forward Adam Cristman responded with a swing at Marquez, triggering a brawl near center circle that concluded with both sides restraining their players, Red Bulls center back Stephen Keel on the ground, and Marquez as well as with L.A. midfielder Juninho receiving red cards and automatic one-game suspensions to be served in the second leg for their roles in the melee.

For the Red Bulls, they will largely try to downplay the significance of the scuffle. Most of them did not see what happened, while what happened went down so fast that few players were in a position to respond meaningfully. Even Keel tried to downplay his own role by describing his involvement as getting caught up in the heat of the moment.

"I’m not too sure exactly, tensions were high; you can see it’s a playoff game," said Keel. "You got two teams battling it out for 90 minutes, you know both teams want to win, at the end there is a little scuffle, nothing major. I think someone comes in to break it up and everything; I just got knocked in the mouth a little bit – nothing major. It’s not a big deal."

Marquez fell in the melee's closing moments due to a phantom punch from no one in particular, but the damage he feigned will still be felt by his side over the next few days. New York now heads to the Home Depot Center on Thursday (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes) down one goal on aggregate and against a Galaxy side that is unbeaten at home. They make the trip just eight days after opening their postseason campaign in Dallas, and now must do so without a key starter and defensive stalwart in Marquez.

As Donovan implied in his post-game comments, the melee awoke a sleeping giant in the Galaxy to the Red Bulls' so-called "cynical soccer" style.

"In all my years in this league, I have not played against a cheaper team than that," Donovan said to Brian Straus of the Sporting News. "We've seen that stuff all year."

They will get to see that "stuff" one more time this Thursday in the second leg of the semifinal round. They just won't see Marquez in the lineup.

And unless the Red Bulls can raise their form to the Galaxy's level at home, no one else will see Marquez in 2011, either.

Get Back. A David Beckham lob ball played a crucial role to enable Mike Magee getting behind the Red Bulls back line and into position for the volley that would become the game's only goal. The role Robbie Keane played remains to be seen.

Replays reflected that either Magee or Keane may have been offside when Beckham pushed the ball up from a free kick, which the Red Bulls' back four picked up in an attempt to trap the Irish striker. However, the action followed a sprinting Magee and left the likes of Keel and Tim Ream on their heels as Keane drew their attention away. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe did not like how the goal came about, but believes his defense needs to be ready for every possible scenario.

"It’s a little tricky on the goal," said Backe. "First, Keane was offside, but I think we have seven guys raise their hand and call for an offside, and of course you can’t do it. And then it was either Magee or (Todd) Dunivant who scored, came as a late runner. You can’t give away a goal like this, you just have to be more sharp. It’s a frustrating goal to concede."

Immovable Object. New York struggled to keep many of their numerous scoring chances on target, but even the balls that found the net couldn't find their way past an effective Josh Saunders, whose fingertip save on a looping Keel header and a derailed Dane Richards run were just a few of his many efforts to loom large over the Red Bulls attack.

The Galaxy netminder collected five saves en route to a clean sheet in the first leg, but his performance wasn't enough to leave Thierry Henry impressed.

"He had one great reflex, other than that he didn’t do much," said Henry. "He saved the ball from Joel Lindpere, after that, I think Dane (Richards) could have done better with his one-against-one. (Saunders) had a good game, but the way they were defending was very good. They were blocking shots, (Landon) Donovan coming back and saving goals sometimes, Becks (David Beckham) and some other players."

One. Henry may not have been impressed with Saunders's efforts on Sunday, but it wasn't as if his side tested the Galaxy 'keeper for prolonged periods. Both New York and Los Angeles took tenuous holds on the run of play all afternoon, but the Red Bulls struggled to create prolonged pressure on the opposing net. Only one of the New York's shots on target occurred before halftime while the Red Bulls' attacking players crashed the net with impunity for only a few fleeting moments after halftime.

Unlike regular season matches, that momentum carries over to Thursday's rematch at the Home Depot Center whether the Red Bulls want it to or not. Stephen Keel takes solace in knowing that it's only a one-goal deficit with no away-goal tiebreaker, meaning they can still push their postseason progress forward with a strong finish against the Galaxy.

"We look at it like it’s a 180 minute match and we are at half-time, right down we are down one-nill," said Keel. "Obviously being at home we wanted to get a better result, but it’s one of those things we got to go to L.A., once again with our backs against the wall. We got the second-half – 90 minutes and we got to get a win. It’s as simple as that."

Jockeying for Trouble. A tough tackle against FC Dallas left Jan Gunnar Solli out of the starting XI against the Galaxy on Sunday, but the Red Bulls brass didn't let a little thing like an automatic one-game suspension from a red card keep their Norweigan fullback from making sweet music on Sunday.

Solli covered the DJ duties at Red Bull Arena during halftime, playing up his personal interests in music while his teammates drew up their second-half strategy for the visiting Galaxy. That rankled many who didn't appreciate seeing Solli featured prominently after getting himself ejected less than a week ago, including Chivas striker and former Red Bull Juan Pablo Angel.

"Player that was suspended for the most important game of the season,gets to DJ while team mates are breaking their buts off #shocking," Angel said via Twitter.

USMNT Recap: Klinsmann can't christen Red Bull Arena with a win over Ecuador

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
1:36
AM ET
The United States went into Jersey with momentum and out with a whimper.

The Stars and Stripes failed to build on Jurgen Klinsmann's first win as head coach as Ecuador claimed a 1-0 win over the U.S. Men's National Team in an international friendly at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday evening. Poor positioning by the arena's native son, Tim Ream, left Ecuadorian forward Jaime Ayoví clear to head home the match's only goal past a helpless Tim Howard in the 79th minute.

Chances came fast and furious for the US as they created five shots on target from 18 attempts on goal, including a flurry of shots in the first seven minutes that culminated with a Tim Chandler shot from the corner of the penalty box as well as DeMarcus Beasley's strike from distance in the 68th minute that landed perfectly in Ecuador 'keeper Maximo Banguera's midsection.

Another loss for the Yanks leaves Klinsmann with only one win in his five matches since replacing former coach Bob Bradley last summer. The U.S. have only two goals to show for that five-game effort, one of which came from the foot of Clint Dempsey in their win over Honduras at SunLife Stadium in Miami last Saturday.

Hot Hand. Even though he came on as a substitute in the 60th minute, the Yanks knew better than to let Jaime Ayovi run free. Ayovi, cousin of Ecuador team captain Walter Ayovi, opened the scoring for Ecuador in the 14th minute in a 2-0 win over Venezuela during South American World Cup qualifers last Friday.

Play of the Game: Ream's Gaffe. Ream, the young center back for the namesake club of the Yanks' home field on Tuesday, had waited a long time to redeem himself after his sloppy trip on Panama striker Blas Perez during the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June left him in the national doghouse. He's had to endure a coaching change and a public criticism of his form at the club level by Red Bulls teammate Rafael Marquez before finally getting a chance to make amends for his only transgression on the international stage.

Unfortunately for Ream, he'll need to wait a bit longer.

Klinsmann brought Ream on as a substitute in the 72nd minute for Yanks team captain and back line stalwart Carlos Bocanegra, only to see that decision be punished seven minutes later. Ream let Ayovi get a step ahead of him in the box as the Pachuca forward converted a cross from cousin Walter to head home what was far and away Ecuador's best (and some might argue only) scoring chance of the night.

“I was watching the man, and as I looked back I saw the ball coming," said Ream. "He was past me as soon as I took a step.”

To Ream's credit, Klinsmann picked up where Bradley left off by inviting the 24-year-old defender into the international camps even if it hasn't affected the depth charts. If Ream is going to develop his form for the international stages, the U.S. coach admits feeling comfortable with giving his young defender the necessary experience.

"It's a learning moment for Tim Ream, that he has to be in front of that guy and unbalance him," said Klinsmann. "Tim needs these moments and he needs these minutes on this level in order to learn. There's nothing bad about it."

Don't Mess With Texas. Even though the US didn't crack the score sheet, it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of Clint Dempsey. The Fulham midfielder and Texas native provided the spark for the Yanks' attack with prescient passing and a team-leading five shot attempts. His playmaking ability covered up for the absence of Landon Donovan and elevated his performance over his attacking partner in Jozy Altidore as well as second-half substitutes Juan Agudelo and Edson Buddle.

“I always put pressure on myself to perform," said Dempsey. "Whether I am a veteran or not, and I have always been that type of person. I go out and every game I try to make an impact and try to win it. So it doesn’t matter if it is my first cap or my 80th cap, I have the same mentality.”

The Other Red Bull. Ream's name will adorn the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Wednesday, but he wasn't the only Red Bull to make an appearance against Ecuador. Klinsmann sent Juan Agudelo in for a beaten-down Altidore at halftime, though Agudelo didn't quite capture the creativity he displayed against Honduras and in flashes at the international and club level to date. That did not concern the head coach of the Stars and Stripes, who confessed some of his intentions for his teenage phenom following the match.

"We see in Juan a very special talent coming through the ranks," said Klinsmann. "He's 18 years old and has a long way to go, but he's a tremendous talent. We have two plans for him. One is for him to be here and learn from the other players in this squad and get used to a higher intensity training. Number two is he will be part of an Olympic team that tries to get to London next summer, and that could be his first big international tournament. Going forward he can only learn and only improve."

20,707. That's the announced attendance for the US's debut at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. And much like the international friendly held at Citi Field in June, the crowd gave sizable support to the visiting Ecuador side.

Red Bull Arena came under fire for not enticing enough supporters to show support for the national side in their first visit to the soccer-specific arena, though selling out a midweek October friendly against a FIFA mid-carder isn't exactly a recipe for a guaranteed sellout. Even if Ecuador and Greece nearly sold out the much-larger Citi Field in July, the change in seasons and sporting interests remain a battle that soccer continues to fight as it gains prominence in this country.

The question remains how long U.S. Soccer will hold this decent-but-underwhelming crowd against the home of the New York Red Bulls in favor of the much-larger MetLife Stadium in nearby East Rutherford. MLS continues to churn out new stadiums while international sides with bonafide stars demand much larger venues (and the accompanying revenues). It could be a long time before Red Bull Arena welcomes the Stars and Stripes home.

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.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
9:44
AM ET

The stars tonight will be big and bright deep in the heart of... Jersey?

A New York Red Bulls club in the driver's seat for a playoff berth will share the marquee at its namesake arena with the star-studded Los Angeles Galaxy side on Tuesday evening (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes). Red Bulls team captain Thierry Henry will provide a heavy dose of attacking momentum for the home side, as the French striker netted a late equalizer to salvage last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Toronto FC as well as an early goal in what concluded as a 1-1 draw on May 7 in the first leg of the regular season encounters against the Galaxy.

The Galaxy arrive at Red Bull Arena to complete the third match of a busy seven-day stretch for the best of MLS this season by points. Los Angeles brings the momentum of a three-game winning streak across all competitions to Red Bull Arena that includes a 2-1 comeback win against Real Salt Lake last Saturday in MLS regular season action as well as last Wednesday's 2-1 win over Monarcas Morelia in CONCACAF Champions League play which came about courtesy of a stoppage-time strike by Brazilian midfielder Juninho.

New York (8-7-16, 40 pts) controls its own playoff destiny and can continue to do so with a win over the Galaxy, as both the Portland Timbers (11-13-7, 40 pts) and Houston Dynamo (10-9-13, 43 pts) will remain dormant until after the international break concludes next week. The Columbus Crew (12-12-8, 44 pts) created breathing room from the Red Bulls with a Sunday win over D.C. United (9-10-11, 38 pts), though the latter team still holds a game in hand on New York that will give D.C. a leg up as the playoff races wind down.

Shielded Stars. Los Angeles only needs two points to clinch the club's second consecutive Supporters' Shield win and fourth in team history, but Galaxy coach Bruce Arena also knows he has three matches to seal the deal. Rather than pull out all the stops at the end of a short work week and prior to the international break, Arena will instead keep team-leading goal scorer Landon Donovan, Irish striker Robbie Keane, and English midfielder Chris Birchall out of the visitor's Starting XI.

Donovan will recuperate from a quad injury incurred during the past week's action, while Keane and Birchall departed early to join the Irish and Trinidadian national teams, respectively. Their absences should ease the burden on a much-maligned Red Bulls back line charged with keeping pressure on the vaunted Galaxy attack.

Key Matchup: Rafa vs. Becks. Henry's pursuit of the MLS scoring title will earn the French striker his share of the limelight on Tuesday, but it will take a superb performance to turn the gaze of soccer supporters from the midfield.

David Beckham is expected to patrol the Los Angeles midfield for what could be one of his final matches in MLS. His contract with MLS and the Galaxy is up at season's end, with only idle speculation providing any indication of the English midfielder's intentions for next season and beyond. With Donovan and Keane unavailable, Los Angeles will look to their prized designated player -- who leads the league with 15 assists -- to lob balls behind the Red Bulls back line while managing the run of play for the visitors.

New York would like to ask the same of Rafael Marquez, but the maligned Mexican defender is suddenly a player without a position for a Red Bulls side not known for its depth. His move to defensive midfielder by Red Bulls coach Hans Backe backfired last weekend, as Marquez's poor pass and poorer attempt to get back on defense contributed to a Toronto FC lead last weekend. And his days on the back line are likely over, as Backe has confirmed that Marquez will once again man the midfield against L.A. rather than line up next to his former center back partner, Tim Ream.

One hopes to justify his existence in MLS with a Cup at season's end. The other hopes to justify his existence in New York with an effective performance. Only one of them will take a big step forward with a solid performance tonight and likely at the expense of the other. So who's up for the challenge?

Doughnut Delivery. Marquez's presence in the midfield will need to support a Red Bulls attack led by Henry and Luke Rodgers against a Galaxy defense that's one clean sheet away from tying the 2000 Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) for the MLS single-season shutout record of 17.

Galaxy 'keeper Josh Saunders has accrued seven shutouts and 10 wins in the 16 matches since seamlessly replacing an injured Donovan Ricketts, though his job gets easier with an MVP-caliber defender in Omar Gonzalez applying the press against opposing offenses. Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere will need to step in and create chaos in the box to prevent the Galaxy from tying the record on the Red Bulls' turf.

One. That's how many goals Henry needs to tie former Red Bull and D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario atop the leaderboard in the Golden Boot pursuit.

Henry ended a 436-minute personal scoring drought with his late strike at Toronto FC last weekend, but will need to find his finishing form if he wants to be a player for the Golden Boot. The Red Bulls hope he can as well, as only Rodgers (eight) and Lindpere (seven) have more than half as many goals as the former Gunner.

Elimination Chamber. While New York can't clinch a playoff berth with a positive result against the Galaxy, they can end the playoff pursuit of two Western Conference clubs still in contention. A draw for the Red Bulls would mathematically eliminate the San Jose Earthquakes from contention, while a win would snuff out the fleeting postseason aspirations of the other L.A. side that calls the Home Depot Center home -- Chivas USA.

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

August, 21, 2011
8/21/11
9:47
AM ET
Even against the club with the most losses in the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls can't win for losing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backe picks Red Bulls trio as MLS All-Stars

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
5:38
PM ET
Hans Backe will have some familiar faces at his disposal as he prepares for the national spotlight.

The Red Bulls coach picked Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, and Tim Ream to play among the 22 players who will represent the best of MLS against English Premier League powerhouse Manchester United in the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena next week. Backe, who was named MLS All-Stars head coach in June, finalized his selections for the star-studded squad on Monday.

Unlike other American sports leagues that tap their own All-Stars in recognition of their in-season contributions, Backe's selections reflect an emphasis on fielding a competitive squad against a ManU side that claimed a decisive 5-2 win over the MLS All-Stars in the 2010 edition at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Henry and Ream, along with Red Bulls defender Rafael Marquez, were originally selected by the fans in the All-Star First XI vote earlier this month which guaranteed their place among the All-Star squad but not necessarily a starting role or even playing time. Backe already confirmed last week that Marquez will miss the festivities as he recovers from a groin injury.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously designated Agudelo as one of the game's two Commissioner Picks last Saturday. However, Backe has final say on who will be on the pitch to kick off against ManU.

Among Backe's other notable picks include Los Angeles Galaxy midfielders David Beckham, who will face his former EPL side, and Landon Donovan, Chivas USA midfielder and New Jersey native Nick LaBrocca, and San Jose Earthquakes forward and 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski.

The 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game will take place at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, July 27. First kick is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

The final roster is below:

Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)

Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls).

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Inactive All-Stars*: Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Rafa Márquez (New York Red Bulls), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

*Inactive All-Stars will be replaced via player voting at a later date.

RBNY Recap: Crew steals draw from NY

June, 5, 2011
6/05/11
11:16
AM ET
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.

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.

RBNY Recap: Red Bulls draw Galaxy 1-1 via strikes by Henry, Donovan

May, 8, 2011
5/08/11
11:31
AM ET


After a Landon Donovan goal cancelled out an early strike by Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls kept pace with the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center on Saturday for a 1-1 draw against their Western Conference rivals.

Henry opened the scoring early by finishing a pinpoint accurate through ball from Dane Richards at the right of the penalty spot. The early strike rattled the Galaxy until Donovan leveled the score late in the first half by heading a David Beckham corner kick past a diving Bouna Coundoul. Though the two conference-leading sides played with ample pressure on the opposition, neither broke through for the game winner.

The draw keeps the Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference with a two-point cushion over the Columbus Crew, while the Galaxy lost ground from the result thanks to a contentious win by Real Salt Lake over Chivas USA.

Play of the Game: Donovan's Non-Goal. While New York played the second half with the same pressure and confidence that carried them through the first, one wonders how that would have changed if the Galaxy had caught the lucky break instead of the Red Bulls right before halftime.

At 43 minutes, Beckham received a pass at the center circle from Chad Barrett and immediately lobbed it 20 yards forward to a sprinting Donovan. Donovan received Beckham's pass behind the Red Bulls defense and worked his way around Coundoul to clear all obstructions between him and the net. He gave an easy touch on the ball at the arc for what looked like an eminent Galaxy goal until Tim Ream scrambled from behind Donovan and diverted the shot away from net at the goal line.

Donovan's shot broke the plane of the goal line, but replays did not unequivocally show that the ball cleared it. While it might spark a few calls for implementing instant replay via goal-line technology, Ream's stop before halftime likely kept the floodgates closed on the Galaxy.

Man of the Match: Teemu Tainio. Though Tainio did not play on Saturday due to a sore groin, viewers could feel his absence on the pitch as Los Angeles pushed back against the Red Bulls' defense. Mehdi Ballouchy, who started over Carl Robinson in place of the injured Tainio, played admirably in relief and made no major gaffes that resulted in Galaxy goals. That said, he lacked the solid forward passing that Tainio consistently delivers and frequently struggled to mark an attacking Donovan. Ballouchy makes for an adequate plan B as a holding midfielder, but the Red Bulls could find themselves in trouble if he needs to emerge as a plan A.

The Honeymoon is Over. Coundoul's three-game shutout streak and 333 consecutive minutes without a goal scored came to an end courtesy of Donovan's strike in the forty-first minute. Save the lapse in judgment that put him out of position on Donovan's non-goal, Coundoul played another strong game in net with seven saves to his credit. Without the goodwill of the shutout streak providing wind for his sails, Coundoul will need to put some extra work in on his ball distribution from the penalty area and work to further cement himself as the number one goalkeeper in New York.

Agudelo Hype Machine: Two Agudelos (Out of Five). Juan Agudelo replaced Luke Rodgers late in the second half and finished Saturday's contest with one errant shot to his credit. While Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe inteds to give Agudelo more time as a super-sub to learn the game, one wonders what's left for him to learn riding the bench until late in games. It becomes doubly troubling to see Agudelo across from Henry up top as their playing styles mimic each other rather than complement one another. It's unclear how many opportunities Agudelo will get to make noise in New York before U.S. National Team duties coming calling for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup in June.

One. That's how many teams in the Eastern Conference won their match this week, and lowly Toronto FC's 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo likely does not send shivers of fear up New York's spine. While everyone hopes for a win against a team of the Galaxy's caliber, leaving Los Angeles with a point in the standings could prove just as valuable in the long run. It's not the sexy way to do it, but these gritty performances pay dividends later in the season.

The Red Bulls will make a pit stop in Canada this week for a friendly against the NASL's Montreal Impact on Wednesday. They then return home for a prime-time contest against Chivas USA on Sunday, May 15.

Chivas USA will look to rebound from a controversial 1-0 loss to CONCACAF Champions League runners-up Real Salt Lake on Saturday. The Goats will likely head to New York without Argentine forward Marcos Mondaini as a result of a red card issued to Mondaini for a vicious tackle on dynamic RSL midfielder Javier Morales.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at LA Galaxy

May, 6, 2011
5/06/11
11:25
PM ET


All of Major League Soccer will turn its collective gaze toward the City of Angels this weekend as the Red Bulls head west to visit the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday (11 p.m. ET, ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes).

Both clubs sit atop their respective conference standings, with the Red Bulls' 4-1-2 record comparing favorably to the Galaxy's at 4-2-3. The Red Bulls enter the Home Depot Center on the heels of a three-game winning streak fueled by goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul's three consecutive shutouts and the prolific offense produced by forwards Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers.

Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe announced that holding midfielder Teemu Tainio will miss the game due to a lingering groin injury, which should open the door for Mehdi Ballouchy or Carl Robinson to step up and hold the line against the Galaxy's dangerous midfield.

The Galaxy hope to rebound from a peculiar and rain-soaked 2-1 loss to FC Dallas last Sunday that included a one-hour delay due to lightning. They will look to ride the recent two-game scoring streak of midfielder Landon Donovan in addition to David Beckham, Juninho and Mike McGee penetrating the vaunted Red Bulls backfield and providing sufficient service for the Galaxy attack.

Designated Player Showcase: Henry and Beckham will clash on an MLS pitch for the first time this weekend, with Rafael Marquez joining Henry and Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel alongside Beckham. Each club's place at the top of the conference standings will add a glow to all the star power at the Home Depot Center this weekend, with each superstar's performance awaiting a period of scrutiny that should linger for quite a while. A hero could emerge from an unlikely source on either of these squads, but you can start looking for candidates among these five proven veterans.

Fallen Angel: The Red Bulls will get their first look at former captain Juan Pablo Angel since his contentious exit from New York at the end of the 2010 season. Angel, who became the Red Bulls’ all-time leading scorer during his four-year tenure with the club, signed with the Galaxy in the offseason after being informed by Backe in during the 2010 season that his contract with the club would not be renewed. Angel's tenure ended awkwardly as Backe prepared his club for life without Angel while he was still on the roster and with no recourse for Angel to change Backe’s mind. If there’s any lingering hurt feelings on the Colombian international’s behalf, it will show up in Saturday’s contest.

4-4-2: If you ever wanted to debate the merits of the popular 4-4-2 formation, Saturday's contest should provide you with ample opportunities. Both clubs play the 4-4-2, but in considerably different ways.

The Red Bulls tend to keep a steady formation built around a midfield featuring Tainio holding, Dane Richards out wide right, Joel Lindpere shallow left and Dwayne De Rosario attacking. It gives the backline room to send long passes into the midfield and allows the midfielders room to maneuver their passing.

Moreover, the Red Bulls rely on their backline led by Marquez and Tim Ream to decide how much space to allot in the midfield, by moving up to shorten the field and keeping opposing teams from building a counterattack too quickly. All of them do the dirty work to provide service for Henry and Rodgers up top so the dynamic attacking duo can finish with ease.

The Galaxy line up in a 4-4-2, but their formation tends to morph as the game situation demands. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena likes to start Donovan and McGee out wide, but often finds more success with the duo when they play tighter to the middle. When Arena reins them in, the formation can resemble a 4-2-2-2 or even a 4-2-4 on the fly as the Galaxy midfield goes on the offensive.

If the Galaxy take a lead and enter shutdown mode, they’ll draw an attacker back into something mimicking a 4-5-1. Without a dominant finisher up top, the Galaxy tend to live and die by the efficacy of its midfield.

Key Matchup: Battle of the Midfields. While much will be made of the big names participating in Saturday's match, this is a game that will be won in the trenches. The Red Bulls rely on frequent, moderately long passes and stretching the opposing defense to build their attack. It’s unclear whether the loss of Tainio will disrupt the Red Bulls' midfield momentum in any meaningful way, but it may create a weakness for the Galaxy to exploit.

Arena often allows the Galaxy midfield to wreak havoc on the pitch, especially on the counterattack. They will put considerable pressure on the Red Bulls' defensive front all night, but how much the New York backline can withstand remains unclear (especially with Ballouchy or Robinson subbing for the injured Tainio). Whoever makes the appropriate adjustments to disrupt their opponent's passing game at midfield will go a long way to disabling the premier players on that club.

Third Time Zone’s the Charm. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, MLS teams traveling three time zones for their match this season possess a pathetic 0-10-9 record while being outscored 28-10. Whether it's an issue of simply adjusting to a three-hour change in schedule or evidence of home-field advantage, the Red Bulls may need to sleep in late on Saturday to buck the time zone trend and challenge the Galaxy on their own schedule.

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