New York Soccer: New York Post

Rafael Marquez criticizes Red Bulls back line not being on "equal level" with him

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
10:54
AM ET
If Red Bulls supporters needed some excuses to keep Rafael Marquez in the doghouse, the Mexican center back just supplied them in spades.

Marquez drew the ire of the home fans for his recently poor form during a 3-1 shellacking by Real Salt Lake at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, culminating in a chorus of boos with his every touch on the ball. The Red Bulls designated player might find the poor reception to be unfair, but his teammates will not like his rationale as to why.

“I think this is a team game and unfortunately there isn't an equal level between my teammates and I,’’ Marquez said to the New York Post following the match. “I’m not paying attention to that. I’m actually focusing on my game… I’m focusing on performing at my highest performance, at the highest level. That doesn’t mean the whole back line can perform at the same level, that’s the problem.’’

Although Marquez speaks English, he frequently speaks to the media in his native Spanish through an interpreter. So the chance exists that a poor translation created his poor choice of words.

That said, it was a collaborative effort by all defensive parties that put the Red Bulls down 3-0 early against RSL. Tim Ream made a monumental error to set up Fabian Espindola's first goal, but it was Marquez and Jan Gunnar Solli who failed to tighten up a pourous back line in the moments before the Argentine forward started the run that finished with RSL's third goal. Solli showed no trouble in accepting his responsibility in the club's defensive failures against the Claret-and-Cobalt.

"We know instead of blaming each other, we know in the back four we could have done differently," said Solli. "We could have cleared the ball a couple of times. Those three mistakes ruined the game for us, because in the second half we really tried to get the early goal."

Unfortunately, Marquez did not share the same sentiment following the match. And that feeling -- which started upon Marquez's return from the CONCACAF Gold Cup and grew as the Red Bulls allowed opponents to score in all but one match since April -- will only make the calls for his outster grow louder over the Red Bulls' final few matches of the 2011 season.

RBNY Notes: US Soccer can't corroborate Solli seeing Red

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
10:35
AM ET
As New York prepares for their rematch at F.C. Dallas this weekend, they do so without Jan Gunnar Solli in their plans.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe did not draw it up that way, as a straight red card issued by referee Terry Vaughn in last Saturday's 1-1 draw against Vancouver made Solli's absence necessary. Vaughn, a 24-year veteran referee with full FIFA international accreditation since 2004, issued the red for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity after seeing Solli tumble over 'Caps forward Camilo on the rush.

Unfortunately for Backe, U.S. Soccer referee Michael Kennedy would not have corroborated Vaughn's call. At the U.S. Soccer Referee Week in Review blog, Kennedy reviewed the play that ended Solli's night prematurely and questions the validity of Vaughn's call:
In order to send off a player for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, one of the criteria that must be met is that there is only one other defender present between the foul and the goal, not including the player who commits the foul. In this case, there are two: the supporting defender in the area, as well as the goalkeeper behind them. Therefore, the defender committing the foul should only have been cautioned for a tactical foul.

Kennedy's comments do not represent the official position of U.S. Soccer, but they do add gravitas to a dialogue about refereeing that typically degrades into a he-said, he-said argument without an official stepping in. Besides, Backe had already come to the same conclusion prior to Kennedy's assessment being published on Wednesday.

“It is not a red card," Backe said to MLSsoccer.com. "First of all, it has to be a clear goal-scoring opportunity to get a red card – Carlos Mendes is behind and Solli is shoulder to shoulder. It’s too far out to be an obvious goal-scoring opportunity; of course it’s not a red card.”

Solli added precious depth to Backe's beleaguered roster, as the Norwegian winger had just returned from a right quadriceps strain that forced him out of the club's prior two matches. With suspensions to Solli and Rafael Marquez forcing them to join Roy Miller and possibly Frank Rost on the sidelines as the latter pair nurse injuries, Backe needs to spin his roster carousel once again to produce a patchwork 11 against the third-best club by points in MLS.

Score one for the skeptics, though. The eyes of Red Bulls supporters had not deceived them on the play that sent Solli to the showers.

Cynical Coverage. Speaking of skepticism, Backe indicated earlier this week that he wants to see more of it out of his back line going forward. He pleads for the reality check to wake up a back four whose injury woes and mental lapses have all but negated any defensive pressure on opposing attackers.

“We’re giving away too many unforced errors," Backe said to the New York Post. "We get breaks against us too much. At the end of the day, a team will score. You just have to defend, defend when you give it away in the middle of the park. (You make) those unforced errors, so you just drop deeper and deeper, and you will get one chance against you and a goal. We just need to play a little bit more cynical, both ways.’’

Irish writer Oscar Wilde defined the cynic in his play Lady Windermere's Fan as “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." Red Bulls supporters know all too well the price being paid to elevate the New York side into the MLS elite. They have to hope that Backe's defenders will ignore their coach's cynical ploys and find value in picking up their play, or risk being left with nothing but failed expectations come playoff time.

Price Tag. New York does not appear to be aiming for any significant roster moves before today's roster freeze deadline kicks in at 5 p.m. ET.

Of course, that won't stop the club from boosting its coffers. The Red Bulls released their season ticket renewal forms earlier this week, which, according to Vipers' Nest blogger Dan Dickinson, raised ticket prices in the lower bowl of Red Bull Arena while lowering them in the upper bowl. As Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl recounted a friend's claim about exhorbitant boosts in the costs of season tickets, the club's official Twitter account explained that the costs changes ultimately added up in the fans' favor.

"71% of seats at RBA decreased price or remained the same for 2012. Average ST increase is 1%, providing affordable options," said a Red Bulls official via the club's official Twitter account.

Prices go up for every professional sports team, but the trouble is in the timing. Season tickets subscribers must renew their plans and pay in full by September 30 to keep their seat and all rights and privileges afforded to it, which falls three weeks before the end of an MLS regular season that may not see the Red Bulls clinch a playoff spot.

The seats are still very affordable by North American professional sports standards, but what's the rush in collecting for 2012?

W2W4: Red Bulls v. Vancouver Whitecaps

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
9:51
AM ET
After 28 days, six international caps, and one hurricane-induced cancellation, the Red Bulls finally get to reestablish their home-field advantage in MLS play.

New York begins its playoff push on Saturday evening as they welcome the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps to Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls hope eight games is enough to clinch a playoff berth as New York needs a better result than the 1-1 draw they settled for against the 'Caps at Empire Field on May 28.

Hurricane Irene washed out New York's highly-anticipated clash against the Los Angeles Galaxy on August 27, leaving the Red Bulls with three weeks to think about their 3-3 draw against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. A double by Dane Richards dug the Red Bulls out of a two-goal deficit against the rebuilding Revs but left New York settling for its fourteenth draw of the season rather than the club's first win in a month.

Vancouver arrives on a rare high note after defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at home on August 27, but that win did little to lift the worst club in MLS by points at 21. Shea Salinas slotted home a right-footed strike in the waning moments of the match to steal a win for the 'Caps, who have a winning record at home (4-3-5) but have yet to collect their first MLS regular season win on the road (0-10-4).

Inactivity helped New York (6-6-14, 32 pts) maintain control of a playoff berth while residing in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just three points behind the third-place Philadelphia Union (8-7-11, 35 pts) and the final automatic conference playoff berth. The Dynamo (8-8-11, 35 pts) sits in fourth place and between the Red Bulls and the Union's berth.

Must Win. Of New York's eight remaining matches, only Saturday's against the 'Caps will transpire against a club without playoff aspirations. But you don't need to remind Red Bulls coach Hans Backe.

“It is a must win," said the typically stoic Backe to the New York Post. "It is definitely a must win at home. (We have) eight games to go, and the home games just need to be won. Everyone has to know that kind of pressure. It is a must win at home. You just need to be able to handle that kind of pressure.’’

Key Matchup: NY’s Right Side vs. Hassli. Only Toronto FC has fewer goals than the 27 netted by the ‘Caps in 2011, but that does not mean Vancouver lacks a scoring threat. French sriker Eric Hassli ranks fourth in scoring this season with 10 goals, trailing fellow countryman and Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry by a meager two goals. After Hassli and Camilo’s eight goals, no other ‘Caps player has more than two.

Meanwhile, New York entered their extended midseason break with questions about the capabilities of their back line, especially on the right side with recent, ineffective play by Rafael Marquez and an injury to Jan Gunnar Solli. Solli is expected to play on Saturday, but where is uncertain at the Norwegian winger may need to move into the midfield to replace the suspended Teemu Tainio or to left back to replace the injured Roy Miller. Chris Albright will assume whatever fullback vacancy is left by the Solli decision.

Hassli is dangerous anywhere in the penalty area, as evidenced by his breathtaking volley at Seattle earlier this season that continues to draw Goal of the Year proclamations. He sets up a shade left of center and does most of his damage in the heart of the penalty box near the spot. Solli, Albright, and, most importantly, Marquez will need to cut off any service to the ‘Caps designated player or risk seeing another highlight-worthy goal scored in their defensive territory.

Coming and Going. Even with three weeks’ rest, New York will not be at full strength against the ‘Caps. Roy Miller, who has played all but one minute of every game this season for the Red Bulls, will be out of action for the next two to three weeks after suffering an injury in his native Costa Rica’s friendly against Ecuador earlier this week. Frank Rost will join Miller on the sidelines as he recovers from a quadriceps injury that emerged on the flight home from the Emirates Cup in July and previously reared its head last October while the German ‘keeper played for Hamburg in the Bundesliga.

One glimmer of hope comes in the form of Luke Rodgers. Backe indicated earlier this week that Rodgers may return next week against F.C. Dallas but could see a few minutes this weekend against the ‘Caps.

Shallow End. Vancouver released defensive midfielder Wes Knight on August 31, which in and of itself isn’t a huge move as Knight was not a starter. However, that move took a chunk out of what little depth ‘Caps coach Tom Soehn had left at fullback. If Henry, Rodgers, or Juan Agudelo can show some forward momentum in the attacking third, it’s fairly certain that Soehn lacks the depth to stop it.

Two. That’s how many minutes a proposed tribute to honor the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will last during Saturday’s match. Fans will receive American flags upon entry into Red Bull Arena and are asked to raise them skyward between the 9th and 11th minutes of Saturday’s match to honor the lives affected by the terrorist attacks endured in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on a September Tuesday ten years ago.

MLSsoccer.com’s John Bolster recently recounted the first soccer match to take place in the greater New York City area following the September 11 attacks between the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and Los Angeles Galaxy – the spirit of which will once again be on display this weekend.

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