New York Soccer: Montreal Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July, 17, 2011
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.

W2W4: Red Bulls at Vancouver Whitecaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls v. Colorado Rapids

May, 25, 2011

Two clubs mired in a May malaise will look for a positive result on Wednesday evening as the Red Bulls welcome the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids to Red Bull Arena.

New York carries a three-game winless streak into Wednesday's match -- or four, if you count the Montreal Impact friendly on May 11 -- after Mehdi Ballouchy's stoppage time strike salvaged a 2-2 draw against Eastern Conference foe Houston Dynamo. The Red Bulls, who fell to second place with the Dynamo tie and a concurrent Philadelphia Union win, will look to restore their offensive might as Thierry Henry should return from a knee injury and presently carries a personal five-game point streak with him.

The Rapids will take the pitch with their own five-game unbeaten streak in tow -- with all four ties and one win against Eastern Conference teams -- after completing a scoreless draw at home against Toronto FC. That stretch coincides with the first five games of a 10-game suspension levied against Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan for a reckless tackle against Seattle Sounders forward Steve Zakuani on April 22. Colorado presently sits at sixth place in the Western Conference with 16 points from a 4-3-4 record thus far.

Shuffling the Deck. Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe will have his hands full with roster management as injury woes and the specter of the Gold Cup hang over the club. Right midfielder Dane Richards already departed for international duty with Jamaica earlier this week. Rafael Marquez could start his Gold Cup absence early by missing Wednesday's match due to a groin injury. Chris Albright (hernia) and Carl Robinson (knee) are also unavailable for the foreseeable future.

Though he can call on Ballouchy to pick up where Richards leaves off, Backe will need to starting mixing and matching his player combinations starting tonight rather than Saturday at Vancouver.

Key Matchup: Tim Ream vs. Rapids Forwards. After netting eight goals in their first three games in 2011, the Rapids have only scored multiple goals one time since April 3 and were held off the score sheet five times during that 11-game stretch. Due to injuries, the Rapids lacked the potent combination of forwards Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, and Caleb Foran and midfielder Jamie Smith over the stretch and have seen their offense suffer as a result.

Casey returned last week from a hamstring strain but needs more time to round into form. He also lines up next to an ineffective Quincy Amarikwa. Amarikwa has applied sufficient offensive pressure in the absence of the Rapids' foursome but tends to stifle his finishes by putting too much touch on the ball.

With Marquez out, Tim Ream will need to quarterback the back line and keep Casey and Amarikwa ineffective up top while supporting Rafa's replacement. It should be a busy night for Ream on the eve of his own departure for Gold Cup duty.

Kneed to Win. With the Gold Cup exodus expected soon, Henry acknowledged to the New York Post that Wednesday's match is a must-win for the Red Bulls.

“No matter how we play tomorrow, we’re going to have to get three points,’’ Henry said to the Post. “(The knee) is not quite there yet, but it is what it is. The three days helped me to e able to go over the pain, so I’m going to try tomorrow. It’s a must-win game for us."

Henry confirmed that he will step on the pitch against Colorado with a knee that's less than 100 percent to give New York a better chance to accrue three points. While Agudelo's disappearing act against the Dynamo only demonstrates Henry's importance, is it worth further risking any more knee aggravation?

Playing for Keeps. One notable exclusion from next month's Gold Cup tournament is Canadian 'keeper Greg Sutton, who did not receive the call to play for the Canucks. That means Sutton, who started against the Dynamo last Saturday and is expected to start against Colorado, will be available to Backe and the Red Bulls going forward. If Sutton carries on his solid play in net, it could cement Bouna Coundoul further down the depth chart despite strong performances in Sutton's absence.

Wagons East. Tonight's match against the Red Bulls will be Colorado's sixth consecutive game against an Eastern Conference team. It will also be the Rapids' fourth away game in the team's last five matches. While that should bolster the club's frequent flier miles, it's a lot of time playing away from the high altitude of Dick's Sporting Goods Park -- let alone their own beds and daily routines.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo

May, 21, 2011
The Red Bulls hope to mess with Texas this weekend as they visit the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium on Saturday evening.

Despite a 3-2 loss at home to Chivas USA last Sunday that ended the club's four-game unbeaten streak, New York continues to maintain a one-point lead atop the Eastern Conference with a 4-2-3 record. The Red Bulls will seek to reestablish the discipline and stout defense missing from last Sunday's loss in Saturday's return match against Houston. New York has never won at Robertson Stadium, but has earned draws in their last two visits.

However, New York will need to challenge the Dynamo without the services of Thierry Henry. The French striker, who suffered a right knee injury in the run-up to his goal against the Goats last Sunday, did not travel with the team for Saturday's match and will not play. While that should create playing time for forward Juan Agudelo, the teenage phenom has his work cut out for him in replacing Henry's five-game point streak. Midfielder Carl Robinson will also miss Saturday's match with a knee injury.

Houston ended a two-game losing skid last Saturday with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake. A win could vault Houston over the Red Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference, as Houston's 3-3-4 record puts the Dynamo in third place and a mere two points behind New York.

The Middle Man. New York will need to keep its awareness high while playing in the presence of Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis. Davis, who won MLS Player of the Month honors in April, leads Houston with six assists and executes crosses and free kicks with surgical precision. The Red Bulls defense will need to regularly mark Davis to keep the Dynamo attack off-balance and prevent the Houston captain from providing service to Cam Weaver and rookie Will Bruin.

Key Matchup: Dwayne De Rosario vs. Houston's Defense. With Henry out of action on Saturday, the Red Bulls will look to Agudelo and Luke Rodgers to pick up the slack at the forward position. While the forwards should handle themselves capably, they simply cannot match Henry's prolific finishing touch.

That's where Dwayne De Rosario comes in. The Canadian midfielder can alleviate the weight on the strikers' shoulders by joining the attack against his former club in addition to providing sufficient service to the forwards. If De Ro plays a bit more aggressive, it should be enough to fill in any offensive gaps left behind by Agudelo or Rodgers.

Ready, Fire, Aim. The Dynamo can make the most of their time in the attacking zone, with their 56 corner kicks and Eastern Conference-leading 143 shots taken as evidence of their steady onslaught.

However, they tend to shoot indiscriminately. 30.1% of Houston's shots taken are on goal, which is third-worst in MLS and falls well below the league average of 35.1%. Compare that to the Red Bulls, who are tops in MLS by putting 40.1% of their shots on goal.

With a week to get back on their normal schedule, a firm Red Bulls back line should keep the Dynamo entrenched in their wild ways. That said, it was a wild finish by Weaver that left New York with a 1-1 draw in April instead of a 1-0 win over Houston at Red Bull Arena.

Streaky Sheets. Last week's scoreless draw against RSL ended an eight-game goal scoring streak that started immediately after Houston's season-opening 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union in March.

That said, Houston only accumulated more than one goal in a 4-1 win over a slumping D.C. United in late April and a 3-1 win over the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps in mid-April. Their offensive peskiness rewards them, but Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul will be expected to limit those rewards while the Red Bulls muster an attack without Henry up top.

The Gang's All Here. Saturday's match could serve as the last time Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe can field his regular lineup for quite a while. Jamaican midfielder Dane Richards admitted earlier this week that he may soon be called up for international duty to start preparations for next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, though Backe expressed hope that Richards would play in next Wednesday's match against the Colorado Rapids.

Richards will be the first of as many of six Red Bulls players to participate in the Gold Cup, with Agudelo and defender Tim Ream expected to play for U.S. Men's National Team, defender Rafael Marquez playing for Mexico, and De Rosario and backup 'keeper Greg Sutton for Canada.

RBNY Recap: Braun's hat trick buries NY in Goats' 3-2 upset win

May, 16, 2011
Chivas USA became the first team in 2011 to win a transcontinental away game by defeating the lethargic New York Red Bulls 3-2 at Red Bull Arena on Sunday. The loss ends New York's four-game unbeaten streak and delivers the Eastern Conference leaders their first loss at home this season.

Justin Braun, who started Sunday night in place of the suspended Marcos Mondaini, scored three go-ahead goals for the Rojiblancos in a game that New York never led. Braun opened scoring in the 6th minute by dribbling past a flat-footed Red Bulls back line and finished with a long strike from the top left corner of the box. His next two goals developed from set pieces, which included a headed goal in the 31st minute and a 56th minute rebound strike for the game winner.

New York twice answered Braun's strikes in the first half. Thierry Henry extended his five-game point streak by picking up a long lob pass by Rafael Marquez and finishing it with a soft, surgical strike inside the left post. Dwayne De Rosario scored his first goal as a Red Bull by converting a penalty kick issued in the 35th minute.

Despite the loss, New York remains in first place in the Eastern Conference with a one-point lead over the Philadelphia Union. Chivas USA gained two points on the Portland Timbers with the win but continues to sit at seventh place in the Western Conference.

Play of the Game: De Ro's PK. De Rosario's penalty kick gave the Canadian midfielder his first goal of the season. It may have given Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe a viable replacement for Juan Pablo Angel at the spot.

Unfortunately, De Ro's goal also represented the only positive result from any Red Bulls set piece on Sunday. New York accrued a whopping 14 corner kicks and multiple free kicks and failed to muster much offensive pressure on any of them.

Marquez, who handled all free kicks except De Ro's PK, looked to target Henry and did not place the ball anywhere for the rest of the Red Bulls to create much chaos in the box. Not that much would have come of it anyway, considering that the Red Bulls lacked creativity in their set piece formations and rarely found themselves in positions to receive Marquez's crosses -- let alone with scoring chances.

Right is Wrong. Chivas USA consistently focused its attack from the wide left, frequently moving the ball in that direction with lateral passes and effective dribbling on the flank. Part of that came from a concerted effort to keep Goats' goal-scoring leader Alejandro Moreno in check on the right side rather than Braun on the left. Part of that came from right back Jan Gunnar Solli putting too many touches on the ball. Part of that came from right midfielder Dane Richards being fairly invisible for most of the evening.

All of it cleared a path into the attacking zone for the Rojiblancos. Braun's three goals either came from the left side or culminated from pressure on that end.

Walk the Line. While the Red Bulls defense and midfield struggled to string precision passes together, the Chivas back line led by Heath Pearce effectively pressed up against New York's attack and compressed the midfield's room to maneuver. Henry and Luke Rodgers frequently displayed fits of frustration from being caught offside seven times and rarely receiving sufficient service.

Despite rookie Zarek Valentin starting next to Pearce at center back and later shifting to right back after Michael Lahoud left in the 30th minute due to after what appeared to be a relapse of his concussion symptoms, New York relied too heavily on long lob passes and not enough on making trouble in the run of play. That played right into the the Goats' aggressive defense.

The Montreal Impact. Some will undoubtedly point the finger at last Wednesday's friendly in Montreal as an explanation for why the Red Bulls lost their get-up-and-go. All of Sunday's starters except Rodgers and Teemu Tainio made the Quebec trip and started in the midweek match, disrupting their regular work schedule and possibly disorienting their weekly rejuvenation. Backe may need to gauge the severity of Montreal's impact, as they will play three regular season games in eight days starting next Saturday.

Lights Out. Sunday's match was delayed 30 minutes due to a power outage resulting from area lightning. It was unclear whether the Red Bulls' alarm clocks were affected.

The Red Bulls will have a full week to recuperate from Sunday's loss ahead of their next match in Houston against the Dynamo on Saturday.

Houston ended a two-game losing streak with a 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake on Saturday. The Dynamo presently sit at third place in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind the conference-leading Red Bulls.

Correction (10:55 A.M.): In the original post, the author incorrectly named Chivas USA forward Justin Braun as Houston Dynamo forward Will Bruin.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Chivas USA

May, 15, 2011
The Red Bulls return home on Sunday evening with a four-game unbeaten streak in tow as they welcome visiting Chivas USA to Red Bull Arena.

New York continues to sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 4-1-3 record and a one-point lead over a second-place Philadelphia Union club that lost to FC Dallas last night and held the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 1-1 draw last Wednesday. Thierry Henry will look to continue leading the offensive charge for the Red Bulls after earning the only goal in last week's 1-1 draw against the Galaxy. The French striker ranks fifth this season in goals scored and has accumulated a goal or assist on all but two of the nine goals scored by New York during their unbeaten streak.

Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe indicated earlier this week that he expects all hands on deck for Sunday's match, with holding midfielder Teemu Tainio (groin) and striker Luke Rodgers ("dead leg") expected to play. However, defensive midfielder Carl Robinson may not be available on Sunday after enduring a knee injury in the 41st minute of Wednesday's friendly against the NASL's Montreal Impact.

Chivas USA will look to bounce back from a deflating 1-0 loss last Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake. The loss ended a five-game unbeaten streak for the Goats that saw them net positive results in league play for the entire month of April. Despite that successful run, Chivas USA continues to reside near the bottom of the Western Conference at seventh place with a 2-3-3 record.

No Mondaini? No Problem. On Wednesday, the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed down a four-game suspension to Chivas forward Marcos Mondaini for a red card he received due to a rough tackle from behind on star RSL midfielder Javier Morales. The Goats will call upon Justin Braun to fill Mondaini's shoes and penetrate the Red Bulls' vaunted defense alongside Chivas's leading scorer, Alejandro Moreno.

Key Matchup: Henry/Rodgers vs. Chivas's Back Line. Chivas head coach Robin Fraser played defense for ten seasons in MLS, which fuels a heavy emphasis for his club on a strong back line. The Rojiblancos will play without center back Andrew Boyens, who will serve a one-game suspension after receiving two yellow cards in last week's match against RSL. Without Boyens's effective center back pairing with Heath Pearce, the gap in coverage may create an opening for Henry and Rodgers to exploit unless rookie Zarek Valentin or another Goats defender can plug the hole. Valentin may get help from the returning Michael Lahoud, who should step in at right back.

Don't Run with the Bulls. The Red Bulls presently lead MLS with a +8 goal differential, which reflects the team's early offensive success and defensive stability. Meanwhile, the Rojiblancos rank near the middle of the pack with a +1 goal differential. If the Red Bulls can turn Sunday's match into a shootout, the Goats likely lack the scoring firepower up top to match New York.

Celebrating the Middle Class. While Mehdi Ballouchy adequately covered the holding midfield position in last week's match against the Galaxy, the return of Tainio should significantly raise the Red Bulls's level of play. The midfield of Tainio, Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards, and Dwayne De Rosario ranks among the best in MLS and factor greatly into the Red Bulls averaging a league-leading 15 interceptions per game. The foursome should consistently stretch Chivas's diamond 4-4-2 into shapes Fraser didn't draw up, which should further create pressure and scoring opportunities for New York.

Time's on Your Side. Last week, the Red Bulls played with the burden of having to travel three time zones for their match against the Galaxy. On Sunday, it's now to their benefit as Chivas USA will travel three time zones from Los Angeles to visit Red Bull Arena. With losses by Columbus and Vancouver in their transcontinental matches yesterday, teams traveling three time zones remain winless with a feeble 0-14-12 record while being outscored 38-14.

RBNY Recap: Red Bulls fall to Montreal Impact 1-0 in friendly

May, 11, 2011
Despite Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe's expectation of "more than just a friendly" against the NASL's Montreal Impact, New York failed to finish off the Canadian side in a 1-0 loss at Montreal's Saputo Stadium on Wednesday.

The RBNY regulars likely left their scoring touch at home as the starters missed multiple scoring opportunities in the first half. Dwayne De Rosario hit the right goal post in the 25th minute after picking up a loose ball in the penalty area. Thierry Henry saw a goal rescinded 10 minutes later after the sideline official called the French striker offsides.

Shortly after Henry's miss, Canadian forward Ali Gerba headed a cross from the right flank by Impact defender Philippe Billy past Red Bulls goalkeeper Greg Sutton for the game's only goal.

New York made eight substitutions at halftime compared to Montreal's five, with neither set of changes providing a scoring spark in the second half.

The Gold Cup Runneth Over. Next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup competition could call as many as seven regular Red Bulls into international duty, including De Rosario and Sutton (Canada), Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Dane Richards (Jamaica), Roy Miller (Costa Rica), and Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo (USA). The match against Montreal will not factor into any standings or stats, but the experience accumulated by the reserves on Wednesday could help Backe uncover the players that will keep the Red Bulls afloat while the regulars are away.

Agudelo Hype Machine: Three Agudelos (Out of Five). Juan Agudelo played the full 90 minutes Wednesday night, giving Luke Rodgers the night off. He also offered up New York's best scoring chance of the night with a strong second-half shot that rattled Montreal 'keeper Evan Bush barely managed to block. He will remain the club's super sub when they return to MLS regular season action next week, but the teenage phenom can only benefit from a full game's worth of action.

'Keeper Conundrum. With Bouna Coundoul receiving a much needed night off, Sutton made the most of his chance to re-enter the Red Bulls' goalkeeper conversation. The Canadian goalie showed no ill effects from the concussion that sidelined him in March and regularly stepped up to make big saves against the Impact -- especially in the second half after Backe subbed out the majority of the starters. The job is still Coundoul's to lose at this point, but Sutton shed concerns about his readiness to step up if necessary.

The Red Bulls will now head back home and prepare for their next MLS regular season match against Chivas USA at Red Bull Arena on Sunday. First kick is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Wilpons send up MLS trial balloon with Greece, Ecuador friendly

May, 11, 2011
Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning for an exhibition match between Ecuador and Greece at Citi Field. While the friendly represents the first non-baseball professional sporting event in Citi Field’s short lifetime, the implications of its success could impact the future of Major League Soccer in New York.

Or, more importantly, MLS’s next expansion team. Next season, MLS will welcome the NASL’s Montreal Impact as the league’s 19th team. In order to keep an even number of teams in each conference, MLS commissioner Don Garber has indicated his intentions on several occasions to expand the league to 20 teams starting in 2013. Garber frequently couples those sentiments with his preference to award the next expansion club to New York.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated prior to MLS First Kick last March, Garber has said publicly that he has held several conversations with New York Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon regarding that 20th team.

“We remain in discussions with them,” Garber said to’s Grant Wahl in March. “They continue to have interest in MLS, and they also have a pretty darn good stadium site.”

Now, the home of the Mets -- which is privately owned by the Wilpons -- will host a friendly this summer. What a coincidence.

While the Wilpons’ entanglement in the Madoff trustees lawsuit may limit their financial plans indefinitely, MLS may need to move soon to give a new ownership group time to bring a soccer franchise up to league speed.

However, Garber may wait until the last minute to award the franchise in hopes of a prominent and long-standing MLB ownership group sorting out its troubles and signing on to join the MLS fray.

“I have a lot of respect for Fred and Jeff Wilpon,” said Garber last March. “And I think there’s more to that story that’s still to be told. I hope they’re able to solve whatever their short-term issues are.

“I’m sure they’ll get through their issues, and our decision here is going to be one for a generation. We’ve got to be sure we’ve got the right owner for the long term.”

The last two expansion teams, the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, received their league invitations two years prior to each team’s MLS debut last March. Both of those franchises had the benefit of a pre-existing organizational structure from its prior involvement with the NASL. The Impact possess the same luxury ahead of their 2012 MLS debut.

And the Wilpons? Their journey to bring an MLS franchise to Queens may need to begin with a first kick between Ecuador and Greece in June.

Adam Rubin has the press release regarding the Ecuador-Greece friendly here.