New York Soccer: Mehdi Ballouchy

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: Cynical soccer leaves Red Bulls sitting pretty after FCD win

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
10:56
AM ET

Cynical soccer, as Red Bulls coach Hans Backe describes it, isn’t supposed to be pretty.

During the majority of the Red Bulls’ 2-0 wild card victory over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Wednesday night, Backe’s description was apt. New York rarely controlled the run of play for meaningful stretches and generally stuck to game plan of withstanding the FCD pressure and obstructing every pass and cross that could feed the opposing attack.

Still, a game plan executed to perfection can still create soccer worth seeing – just as it did in the 61st minute by way of a Joel Lindpere go-ahead goal. FCD ‘keeper Kevin Hartman parried a Lindpere shot wide and towards Dane Richards, who smartly backheeled the ball parallel to the penalty area up to Mehdi Ballouchy. Ballouchy, who had entered the match only moments earlier for his first meaningful MLS action since mid-September, took care of the rest.

“Dane got the ball up high on the right and I was yelling right behind him ‘Play me back the ball’ and I decided (to pass low) instead of crossing, because I think most fullbacks are expecting the block off of the cross but forget about the pass on the ground,” said Ballouchy. “The back four stepped up and opened up Joel and he was able to finish. We were fortunate to get the first goal against the run of play.”

It came about quickly and came together perfectly, with Lindpere crediting the Morocccan midfielder in creating the Red Bulls’ best scoring chance of the game.

“Mehdi gave me a great ball,” said Lindpere. “I was timing my run very perfectly and maybe I didn’t hit (it) so hard but it was difficult to reach for the goalie.”

Thierry Henry’s stoppage-time strike lacked the suave of Lindpere’s goal, but the Red Bulls team captain finished that ball following 90-plus minutes of keeping FCD midfielder Daniel Hernandez in check. Henry was charged with keeping Hernandez out of the picture on the FCD offensive end, with Backe admitting that the Red Bulls’ game plan hinged on his French striker’s results.

“We said before the game was the key has to be to close down Hernandez’s distribution,” said Backe. “We put Thierry on him and set with the back four and midfield just to cover the space for the pace guys in Dallas, the front three guys, and give them as little space as possible in closing down Hernandez. That worked quite well, because (Igo) Ihemelu or (George) John has to drive out and had to do the distribution. They went wide sometimes, but we were solid in the middle.”

That solid performance left New York standing at the final whistle with a two-goal victory and two games against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Western Conference bracket now added to the schedule. It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always telegenic.

But, as Backe sees it, that just wouldn’t be the Red Bulls’ cynical style these days.

“We have played decent football,” said Backe. “I think we’re at the right time. Perhaps close to our peak.”

Empty Net. New York now has four wins in their past six matches between the regular season and postseason, with ‘keeper Frank Rost playing a prominent role in each victory. The German shot stopper has accrued clean sheets in each of the club’s last five wins dating back to New York’s prior visit to Pizza Hut Park in September. While he certainly played a role in keeping opposing offenses out of the New York net, Rost acknowledges that his side’s seeming ability to score often makes his job a little easier.

“We shoot a goal in every match if we get no goal,” said Rost. “Maybe the players have this now in the blood.”

Game of Chance. FCD created twice as many scoring chances as the Red Bulls on Wednesday, but never quite cracked the combination that would make the Red Bulls back line sweat. The numbers paint a picture favoring the Dallas attack, but Backe didn’t feel the pressure outside of a first-half header by Jackson that went for naught.

“I don’t think it was that many chances,” said Backe. “It had one good header or close, but otherwise, I can’t really find a free run or a 100-percent scoring chance. Some half chances, but not the really big one.”

Looking Ahead. Now that New York has dispatched of the 2010 MLS Cup runners-up in the do-or-die wild card round, they can focus their efforts on preparing for their home-and-home semifinal series against the Supporters Shield winners in Los Angeles.

Henry recognizes that the path through the Galaxy won’t be easy, but admits that his side’s form will prepare them better than any self-esteem derived from their recent success.

“The confidence level doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs,” said Henry. “We know it won’t be easy, but don’t get me wrong -- We are in a better situation now the way we are playing, mentally. The team is much stronger because we’re playing as a team. Everyone’s going to say LA against the Red Bulls is going to be a big game, but they are the favorites. So we’ll try to cause an upset.”

Rapid Reaction: Red Bulls 2, FC Dallas 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at FC Dallas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August, 14, 2011
8/14/11
11:40
AM ET
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Paris Saint-Germain at Emirates Stadium

July, 30, 2011
7/30/11
2:23
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Leave it to the City of Lights to unite an Arsenal legend with his old supporters against a common foe.

Before the Gooners can welcome back Gunners great Thierry Henry in the weekend finale, the New York Red Bulls will kick off against Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain at Emirates Stadium in London, England on Saturday. This trans-Atlantic clash represents the first leg of the Emirates Cup, a two-day exhibition tournament hosted by English Premier League side Arsenal FC.

The four clubs involved in this year's Emirates Cup -- Arsenal, Paris SG, Boca Juniors, and the Red Bulls -- play two matches with the standard tournament scoring of three points awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and the added incentive of a point for every goal scored. Arsenal has won the Emirates Cup three times in the four years of the tournament's existence, including last year's edition.

Key Matchup: The Red Bulls vs. Their Depth Chart. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe has worked hard to mixed results in balancing a very busy July schedule that includes MLS regular season, US Open Cup, and MLS All-Star Game commitments for many of his key players.

Make no mistake -- the Emirates Cup sat on the Red Bulls' calendar with a big circle around these next two days. These games may not factor in to the MLS standings, but they stand to help benefit the club's reputation on the global soccer scene and within MLS. They will not punt these matches in the same way they seemingly punted the US Open Cup quarterfinal at Chicago.

Backe has 21 players at his disposal to play two matches in two days before the Red Bulls can finally have their full first week of rest since the middle of June. With Luke Rodgers and Mehdi Ballouchy missing the trip due to injury and visa issues respectively, Backe has one more balancing act to peform with his reserves and regular personnel to make a strong impression under the bright lights of the second largest club stadium in London.

Time Zone Tizzy. New York generally hasn't fared well in their matches away from Eastern Standard/Daylight Time, going 0-2-8 in MLS play this season as well as the US Open Cup loss at Chicago.

Factor in the five-hour time difference to Greenwich Mean Time and that the club did not leave New York until Thursday nor send any non-All-Stars in advance to adjust to the time difference and it could make for a sluggish start by whatever combination of players that Backe decides to start against Les Parisiens.

A Moveable Feast. Paris Saint-Germain is a club on an upward trajectory, with their fourth-place finish in the 2010-11 season being their best finish in a decade and a mere three seasons after narrowly avoiding relegation. New Paris SG sporting director Leonardo took the reins in July after being courted away from his post as Inter head coach.

Leonardo promptly brought Roma winger Jérémy Ménez and former Juventus defensive midfielder Mohamed Sissoko to bolster his defensive efforts as well as French 'keeper Nicolas Douchez and former Palermo shot stopper Salvatore Sirigu to handle the netminding duties. A lot of Paris SG manager Antoine Kombouaré's weekend tactics may revolve around Leonardo's efforts to help these players establish chemistry for the upcoming season and the accompanying run in the UEFA Europa League.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RBNY Notes: Red Bulls add Bundesliga's Rost in net

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
9:43
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The German newspaper Bild reported on Wednesday that longtime Bundesliga goalkeeper Frank Rost has signed with the New York Red Bulls. Terms were not disclosed for the deal, though Rost is expected to join the team for this weekend's match against Chivas USA.

"We are delighted that Frank has decided to support us in the middle of our campaign," said Red Bulls GM Erik Solér to Bild.

Rost joins the Red Bulls with 17 seasons of Bundesliga experience under his belt, with includes 426 domestic matches and 109 matches in European competition for Werder Bremen, Schalke 04, and, most recently, Hamburger SV. Rost started 30 matches in net for Hamburger SV during the 2010-11 season, but briefly contemplated retirement and a career in coaching after not having his contract renewed by the club at season's end.

According to the Red Bulls website, Rost will count as the third designated player on the club roster.

The Red Bulls now have a decision to make with Rost, Greg Sutton, Bouna Coundoul and Alex Horvath on the club's depth chart at 'keeper. The Bild report made no mention of which goalkeeper may be released by the club in the coming days.

According to the MLS Players Union, Coundoul is expected to make $179,500 for his services in net this season -- coming in at almost $100,000 more than the $80,100 due to Sutton in 2011.

Double Down. A Red Bulls side consisting mostly of reserves got burned by an Orr Barouch brace as the Chicago Fire claimed a dominating 4-0 victory in a US Open Cup quarterfinal match at Toyota Park on Tuesday. Barouch's double joined goals by Yamith Cuesta and Dominic Oduro in the scoring frenzy as the depleted Red Bulls side generated few chances to answer the Fire attack.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe defended the tournament's low priority with a busy July schedule challenging the club's depth chart. Backe picked only regular contributors Mehdi Ballouchy and Coundoul for a shorthanded squad of 13 players that flew to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon rather than Monday evening.

Backe himself also stayed behind in New York, assigning assistant coach Mike Petke to oversee sideline duties at Toyota Park.

The decision to give the US Open Cup match short shrift rankled many of the Fire players, who vowed to not go lightly on the reserve side kicking off against them.

"We took it personally," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said to Soccer by Ives. "Before the game we talked about punishing this team, beating them 5-0."

Chris Albright made his first appearance for the Red Bulls in two months on Tuesday after undergoing hernia surgery in May. Alrbight started and played 60 minutes before being substituted for Marcos Paullo as a precautionary measure after the Red Bulls right back took a tough fall.

"It wasn’t a situation where he’s asking to come out," Petke said to Big Apple Soccer. "It was a situation where he went down and I wasn’t sure what happened when he fell down, was nervous a little bit and took him out. I think he served his purpose and got some good minutes in, got some fitness back. He’s going to help us big time in the push for the playoffs, filling in or starting, whatever he chooses to do.”

The result eliminates the Red Bulls from the US Open Cup tournament while the Fire advance to face the USL Pro side Richmond Kickers -- who executed a 2-0 upset win over Sporting Kansas City -- in the semifinals.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Chicago Fire

July, 12, 2011
7/12/11
3:29
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The Red Bulls hope an injection of youth can regain the swagger lacking in their MLS regular season play as they pay a visit to the Chicago Fire for a quarterfinal match in the US Open Cup on Tuesday.

New York finds themselves at Toyota Park after rookie midfielder John Rooney finished off derby dance partner FC New York in a 2-1 win of the US Open Cup third-round match at Red Bull Arena on June 28. However, the Red Bulls face the Fire with their heads hanging low after dropping their first shutout loss at home to rival D.C. United on Saturday and previously conceding a 1-1 draw to Chicago on June 26. Red Bulls castaway Dwayne De Rosario scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win for DC, while a Bouna Coundoul blunder enabled Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa to draw Chicago level on a soft goal.

Four-time US Open Cup champion Chicago hopes to continue its winning ways in tournament play after conceding a 2-1 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. David Beckham curled a corner kick into the net to answer a Cristian Nazarit header for the win, further frustrating a Fire side that has only one win in MLS play since March 30. Chicago has found more success in the US Open Cup, with three wins in the tournament that includes a third-round, 1-0 victory over the Rochester Rhinos on June 28.

Bad Timing. Due to a Monday morning thunderstorm that cut power to over 800,000 Chicago-area residents, officials changed the kick off time from the original 8:00 p.m. EDT first kick to a more daylight-friendly 6:00 p.m EDT. The match will also be streamed live on the Chicago Fire's website.

Key Matchup: Ballouchy vs. the "Best." Red Bulls coach Hans Backe already indicated his intentions to use all reserves for Tuesday's match at Toyota Park. Moroccan midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy was the only player in Backe's regular rotation to fly with the 13 players Backe invited to Chicago and is expected to start up top alongside rookie forward Corey Hertzog. Former defensive mainstay Chris Albright should also see some action at right back in his first match since undergoing hernia surgery in May.

Fire coach Frank Klopas will counter Backe's band of baby Bulls with a large part of his normal arsenal. Though that decision reflects a club initiative to mix-in regulars with reserves during US Open Cup play (having done so in two of their three matches so far), it will raise the talent level for the home side and give the baby Bulls a stern test.

That leaves Ballouchy, who has shown fantastic and frustrating moments for the Red Bulls in MLS play all season, in a situation where he must provide the polish and stabilizing play that Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo provided for the baby Bulls against FC New York.

CONCACAF Calling. Backe will rely upon his reserves as his club prepares for six matches in 19 days that includes road trips to Los Angeles, Colorado, and a doubleheader finale at Emirates Stadium in London.

With MLS All-Star First XI selections Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez nursing injuries along with Luke Rodgers, it's tough to criticize Backe's decision to balance what little depth is at his disposal. That said, New York is 11 points behind the LA Galaxy in the Supporters' Shield race and face the same doubts of every club hoping to reach the MLS Cup finals -- and receiving the automatic CONCACAF Champions League berth that comes along with it.

The Red Bulls haven't approached the CONCACAF Champions League as a top priority to date, but the US Open Cup could become their best chance to qualify and raise the club's profile within the region. Backe didn't pack his big guns for the Fire, but he may change his tune if the club makes to the semifinal match which would take place on Tuesday, August 30.

Rapid Reaction: Earthquakes 2, Red Bulls 2

July, 3, 2011
7/03/11
12:52
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While the Red Bulls can start and finish with the best of MLS, it's the middle that leaves them fit to be tied.

A Joel Lindpere brace bookended the Red Bulls' scoring efforts as New York escaped Stanford Stadium with the club's third draw in four matches after a 1-1 result against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Lindpere provided the offensive touch for the visiting side with an early strike in the 7th minute and an equalizer in the 85th minute that was temporarily ruled an own goal for Quakes defender Bobby Burling.

Steven Lenhart headed in a long lob pass from the right flank by Steven Beitashour in the 68th minute to give San Jose its only lead of the game after Khari Stephenson converted a gaffe by Bouna Coundoul for a first-half equalizer.

The top of the Eastern Conference shuffled again as the Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union left their respective matches on Saturday with a draw while the Columbus Crew fell 2-0 to FC Dallas, giving New York a one-point nudge into second place.

Estonian Emergence. If Lindpere still isn't enjoying his time on the pitch, he sure isn't showing it in his form.

The Estonian midfielder found himself right in the middle of the Red Bulls' offensive efforts, highlighted by his goal-scoring efforts that salvaged the draw. He always seemed to find himself in the right position to join the attack and the right position to capitalize, especially on his high-bouncing strike that drew the Red Bulls level in the waning moments of the match. He truly started to display the form that made him a revelation to Red Bulls supporters and an MLS All-Star in 2010.

Play of the Game: Lenhart's Golazo. While the sequence that created Lenhart's go-ahead goal seems fitting here, it doesn't do justice to the defensive breakdown that plagued the Red Bulls in the second half.

Beitashour's lob pass from the flank came from more than 30 yards out and only found Lenhart's noggin as center backs Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes left too wide a gap between them to box out the Quakes forward. That sequence followed a Chris Wondolowski shot that hit the woodwork in the preceding moments, and was engulfed by mental lapses that San Jose consistently exploited.

If Mendes and Stephen Keel were accountable for their mixed results in holding up the patchwork backline, Ream now receives his share of the blame for being out of position on Lenhart's goal and for not clearing the ball to kill the persistent San Jose attack. He picked it up shortly thereafter, but the US defender needs to discover his discipline before an error reminds him to do so.

Influential Influenza. An hour before first kick occurred at Stanford Stadium, the Red Bulls announced via Twitter that Thierry Henry would not start against the Quakes due to what the club described as "flu-like symptoms."

With Luke Rodgers still tending to his plantar fasciitis and Dwayne De Rosario now playing for D.C. United, that left Juan Agudelo paired with Mehdi Ballouchy up top to start the match.

Get a Grip. New York bestowed rookie 'keeper Bouna Coundoul with his second-consecutive MLS start after Greg Sutton minded the net for the baby Bulls in Tuesday's US Open Cup win.

Unfortunately, the Sengalese stopper returned the favor with his second soft goal in as many games. Coundoul broke through a penalty area scrum following a corner kick to get his hands on the inbound ball, but failed to maintain possession as Teemu Tainio leaped in his path at the last moment. The ball deflected toward the spot where Khari Stevenson converted it on an open net for the equalizer.

At some point, the Red Bulls will need a goalkeeper that provides more answers that questions in the back. Thanks to yet another Bouna blunder, that point is not now.

Twelve. That's how many matches the Red Bulls have played this season in which they scored first. The Red Bulls now have ten draws.

The Red Bulls now head back to Red Bull Arena to open their season series against Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC on Wednesday. First kick is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.

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