New York Soccer: New York Red Bulls

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Arsenal FC

July, 31, 2011
Forget Paris -- Tell the world Titi's coming home.

Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry returns to the scene of his greatest career triumphs as his New York Red Bulls club faces English Premier League stalwart Arsenal FC in the Emirates Cup finale at Emirates Stadium in London, England on Sunday. Henry will make his first start against the Gunners since departing for FC Barcelona in 2007, though the French striker briefly appeared as a substitute for Barça at Arsenal in the first leg of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match.

New York will need to overcome the pomp and circumstance surrounding Henry's homecoming to leave with the host's hardware on Sunday. The Red Bulls sit atop the two-day tournament's four-team group with three points by making a Joel Lindpere goal hold up against a barrage of shots by their opponents in a 1-0 victory over Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.

Arsenal and Boca Juniors consummated a 2-2 draw in the second-half of the doubleheader at Emirates Stadium, giving each side one point heading into Sunday's doubleheader finale.

Key Matchup: Henry vs. the Gooners. New York may consider taking the Emirates Cup home with them a priority, but this prestigious invitation to kick off against one of the elite English Premier League sides on their home turf simply does not happen if not for the presence of Henry.

This match may morph into a de facto testimonial for the Arsenal legend, but his current club owes him an equal debt of gratitude for enabling the Red Bulls to kick off on such a prominent stage. The contest is nothing more than a preseason warmup for the Gunners, but everyone will watch in hopes of getting a passing glance at the magic that helped Henry deliver two EPL titles, two FA Cups, four Golden Boots, five Player of the Year awards and a club-record 226 goals in 370 contests to Arsenal.

For a fleeting moment, New York now stands in the soccer spotlight. So what can they do with it?

Let's Play 21. From the 21 players selected to make the trip across the Atlantic, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe fielded a very aggressive lineup against Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday that included eight of his regular starters as well as teenage phenom Juan Agudelo. All of that grouping but Teemu Tainio saw more than 70 minutes of action while Agudelo departed after 74 minutes as a precautionary measure after banging up his ankle in the 49th minute and another snag which Saturday's broadcast team described as a "groin strain."

Backe saved Henry and Rafael Marquez for the Sunday finale, but it remains to be seen who else the NY coach will call upon to represent the Red Bulls against the Gunners -- and more importantly, which players will receive double duty this weekend.

Gunners Blazing. Arsenal may have kept tabs on their former captain (Gunners captain Cesc Fabergas and Robert Van Persie were guests of Henry for the Red Bulls match against Colorado on May 25), but they'll enter Sunday's match with an eye towards August 12 -- also known as their first week of competition in the 2011-12 EPL season.

Fabergas will miss Sunday's finale as speculation builds about the Arsenal captain's potential transfer to FC Barcelona (the same move Henry made in 2007), but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger can't wait for that situation to sort itself out and simultaneously acclimate his newest acqusitions, Ivorian forward Gervinho and English defender Carl Jenkinson, and the rest of his club to EPL season form.

Considering Wenger is overseeing a light preseason schedule with only one more match before their EPL season commences in Newcastle, he'll need to see more than a club with some offseason rust to shed.

Rapid Reax: Red Bulls 1, Paris St.-Germain 0

July, 30, 2011
New York opened its participation in the Emirates Cup tournament with a 1-0 win over Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain at Emirates Stadium in London on Saturday. Joel Lindpere finished a nutmeg through ball from Juan Agudelo in the 27th minute to provide what amounted to be the game-winner for the Red Bulls.

The win leaves New York with four points and atop the group in the two-day competition.

Play Of The Game: The Non-Call On Miller: Paris SG created multiple attacking chances throughout the game, including a sequence in the 64th minute which included a lot of physical activity in the box. Roy Miller joined the scrum to clear the ball near the penalty spot, only to make incidental contact with Paris SG winger Jérémy Ménez.

Replays showed that the contact was slight at best, but easily could have been called a penalty shot considering the heightened activity in the box dividing the referee's attention.

Swing And A Miss: A one-goal lead proved sufficient for the Red Bulls on Saturday, but it wasn't for lack of effort on the part of Les Parisiens. Paris SG picked up the press after Lindpere's goal and dominated possession throughout the second half, allowing the Ligue 1 side to dominate attempts on goal ... and dominate missing those attempts. Despite Le Parisiens mustering a 25-to-5 edge in attempts on goal, Red Bulls 'keeper Frank Rost only accrued six saves due to the numerous shots directed wide by Paris SG. PSG forwards Mevlut Erding and Jean Christophe Bahebeck mustered a dozen shots between them, but best represented their club's troubles as they directed only two on target and frequently missed wide or saw their chances blocked by a very efficient Red Bulls back line led by team captain Tim Ream.

Call It The Streak: The win gives New York its first victory on European soil since the Red Bulls collected a 1-0 win over Polish side Lech Poznan at La Manga resort in Spain in Jan. 2010. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe remains undefeated on European soil since taking the reins of his New York side mere weeks before that preseason victory at La Manga.

New York now gets a 24-hour breather before Thierry Henry steps on the pitch against the club that made him a household name in the soccer world, Arsenal FC, on Sunday. First kick is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET.

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

July, 30, 2011
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.

MLS All-Star Game as suspenseful as ever

July, 27, 2011
Wednesday’s star-studded soccer spectacular will grab the attention of association football fanatics everywhere, but it’s hardly the first time that such a grand display will take place in the Garden State.

Or the second.

In fact, the 2011 edition of the MLS All-Star Game (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3) represents the third tour of duty for the best of MLS in New Jersey. This trip comes with a mandate for Red Bulls and MLS All-Stars head coach Hans Backe to field a competitive squad against legendary English Premier League side Manchester United at Red Bull Arena, but even an expectation of making a game of the midsummer showcase is a fairly new phenomenon that was far beyond anyone’s comprehension in the inaugural MLS All-Star Game in 1996 at the Meadowlands.

15 years ago, Major League Soccer came into being with the simple aspiration of avoiding the mistakes of past American soccer leagues such as the NASL to build a bigger, better, stronger domestic soccer presence. Early MLS officials included the peculiar move to add an All-Star Game on the debut season schedule to put a spotlight on the league’s superstars.

Considering no domestic sports league hosted its first All-Star Game until at least five years following the league's inception, who knew what that decision would even mean for the so-called MLS All-Stars?

“Since it was the first one, none of us had really been in an All-Star Game,” said inaugural MLS All-Star and current ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas. “We associated everything with other sports. It’s a very American type of situation. So, we looked at not knowing, from a competitive side, how to approach and play the game.”

MLS hedged their bets on drawing interest in its summer showcase with a trick the league often used to pad the attendance numbers in its formative years – a doubleheader with a marquee hook. The East and West All-Stars would face off for the captive audience on the undercard at the Meadowlands, with an amalgamation of FIFA World Stars kicking off against a Brazil side preparing for the Summer Olympics in the main event.

It worked -- 78,416 fans showed up to Giants Stadium in what, at the time, was the second highest-attended event in Meadowlands history following the Pope’s visit in the preceding year. With MLS doing the dirty work of filling the seats by any means necessary, that left the onus on the players to make the most of its first true step into the national spotlight.

“Even though we recognized a lot of people were there for Brazil-World Stars game, there was a collective understanding that this was celebrating a year into our little project,” said Lalas. “I don’t think any of us ever got the feeling that it wasn’t still about MLS even with the incredible draw of that second game.”

That understanding translated into a wide-open affair which delivered five goals by five different players and didn’t die down until Tampa Bay Mutiny defender Steve Pittman netted the 88th minute game winner for the East All-Stars in a 3-2 victory. MetroStars midfielder Tab Ramos, who split his formative years just a chip shot away from the Meadowlands in nearby Harrison and Kearny, scored the first goal in MLS All-Star Game history by tucking a shot in the upper 90 past Western Conference and Los Angeles Galaxy ‘keeper Jorge Campos.

The memories of that first All-Star Game have faded a bit with the passage of time, save the scorching heat of a July Sunday at the Meadowlands. And what transpired in Giants Stadium will hardly resemble what MLS will present to the world from Red Bull Arena on Wednesday. Does that leave the inaugural MLS All-Star Game with any lasting value in the league’s short history?

“Absolutely,” said Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser, who also started for the inaugural West All-Star side. “It was the first year of the league and everything was new to us. To see the kind of fans there surrounding soccer was great. For those of us who’d been around and been in smaller leagues and been on national teams, we were definitely waiting for the day when soccer would be embraced like that.”

Such an embrace came from a venue that was as close to a sporting cathedral as the American soccer scene had ever known this side of the Rose Bowl. MLS chose the Meadowlands for its All-Star kick off to put the league’s premier event just a short drive from New York City, but moreso to awaken the ghosts of the dearly-departed (and only recently reincarnated) New York Cosmos and the legacy of the 1994 FIFA World Cup tourney that ultimately fueled the league’s creation.

“Sometimes you get lucky and things like that happen in the place that’s close to you,” said inaugural East All-Star ‘keeper Tony Meola, who could also call nearby Kearny his old stomping grounds. “I was lucky not only to be part of it and playing in it, but also that it was here and my family could enjoy it and we could show off to the locals here what the league was about.”

Even as the final whistle blew on the 1996 MLS All-Star Game, the stars didn’t stop shining after Carlos Valderrama was named the first MLS All-Star MVP. Campos played both matches, appearing in the first half for the FIFA World Stars.

John Harkes, another Kearny native, had the opportunity to follow Campos’s lead in being picked as an MLS All-Star and FIFA World Star but ultimately deferred to being the only American to play in the second match as he recovered from a hamstring injury that befell him in the days leading up to the doubleheader.

Harkes, now an ESPN analyst, knew something special was simmering under that July sunshine in the stadium a mere 20 minutes from where he grew up.

“I left to go overseas because there was nothing here that was compatible to the growth and development and playing at such a high level (internationally),” said Harkes. “To come back and actually see (that day) come to fruition with people and family and friends who knew what that area is all about made it all the better.”

Brazil bettered the FIFA World Stars in the second leg with a surprise shot by Roberto Carlos, but that 2-1 result is as outdated as the format that made the doubleheader necessary. MLS let the best of the East and West go it alone in a rain-soaked encore at the Meadowlands in 1997, only to render that template obsolete five years later by letting the best of MLS kick off without a coastal bias against the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2002 and Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara in 2003.

Now Backe will choose his best XI to try and knock off the defending EPL champs in an All-Star format whose ultimate success will result in the extinction of the status quo. As long as MLS needs an All-Star side to run with the best soccer clubs in the world, they’ll always be a step behind. When the level of talent at the MLS club level can regularly compete with the Manchester Uniteds and Barcelonas, the All-Star XI versus the world format will itself become irrelevant.

Should that day come, it will again reveal a significant trait of the MLS All-Star Game that was as true in 1996 as it is today. It will give you a taste of the possibilities of the beautiful game on American soil before leaving you in suspense for what comes next.

They didn’t know what would follow in 1996. They still don’t quite know now.

But then as now, aren’t you the least bit curious to find out?

RBNY Recap: Henry salvages draw vs. FCD

July, 24, 2011
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
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
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.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Colorado Rapids

July, 20, 2011
A Rocky Mountain rematch is on deck as the New York Red Bulls pay a visit to the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday.

New York will seek to regain its attacking form after leaving the Home Depot Center with a scoreless draw against Chivas USA on Saturday. Roy Miller headlined a Red Bulls defense that empowered new German goalkeeper Frank Rost into collecting his first clean sheet by preventing the Goats from registering a shot on target, while Chivas kept the New York press at bay until late in the second half.

Colorado continues to tread water in the Western Conference after dropping a 4-3 result to the Seattle Sounders in a wild match at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. The Rapids hope to regain the form that created two early leads over New York before leaving Red Bull Arena with a 2-2 draw in the first leg of this regular season matchup on May 25.

An easy 3-0 victory for the Philadelphia Union (8-4-7, 31 pts) over the New England Revolution on Sunday once again relegates the Red Bulls (6-4-11, 29 pts) to second place in the Eastern Conference and two points behind the first-place Philly side.

Mighty Casey Strikes Out. While Colorado's loss to the Sounders further damaged their chances at defending the MLS Cup this fall, it's another loss from that game which is creating greater concern.

The Rapids lost their leading scorer for the rest of the season after Conor Casey fell to the ground unchallenged in the first half of Sunday's loss at Seattle with what an MRI later revealed as a torn Achilles tendon. Rapids coach Gary Smith indicated to that Caleb Foran will likely fill in up top for Casey, who has six of the club's 25 goals this season.

Key Matchup: NY's Central Defense vs. Rapids Forwards. With the Rapids having a very short period to rebound from Casey's injury, it creates uncertainty as to whether Colorado can establish an attacking form that they've lacked at full strength this season.

Casey made an impact against the Red Bulls tandem of Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes upon entering the May 25 tilt -- Mendes filled in for Rafael Marquez, who was tending to a hamstring injury ahead of the Gold Cup -- as a substitute after returning from a hamstring injury. He almost scored the game-winner in the 77th minute after deflecting a net-bound shot off Red Bulls 'keeper Greg Sutton, only to have Ream knock it away at the goalmouth.

No team just replaces a player like Casey. And it's inevitably up to Ream and Mendes to prevent any contenders from filling Casey's shoes on Wednesday.

Set Piece Salsa. Both Colorado goals in May came from the foot of Jeff Larentowicz, who scored one from a set piece and finished the other by collecting his own rebound from another free kick. New York didn't surrender many free kicks against the Rapids, but the visitors made them pay for each occurrence. The zonal marking system implemented by Red Bulls coach Hans Backe could be put to the test again and will be judged by that poor performance in May.

Turnover Town. New York dominated possession against the Rapids in the first leg in May, but Colorado did just enough to cut the legs out of the Red Bulls attack with timely turnovers. It made things tough in the defensive third for the Rapids, with only Drew Moor consistently establishing any distribution from the back. But it made things impossible for the Red Bulls, who simply couldn't get behind the Rapids back line and finish off their guests after the half.

Five. If you include the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, that's how many games Backe could call Ream, Thierry Henry, and Juan Agudelo to participate in over the next 11 days.

Luke Rodgers, who described his Red Bulls tenure to Staffordshire's The Sentinel as "the happiest (he's) been in football," remains in limbo due the lingering effects of plantar fasciitis. New York's depth also took a hit with their Monday trade of Austin da Luz to D.C. United, leaving Backe with his work cut out for him in balancing the team's attacking depth for the MLS regular season, their appraisal in the MLS All-Star Game, and their reputation in next week's Emirates Cup challenge.

Backe picks Red Bulls trio as MLS All-Stars

July, 18, 2011
Hans Backe will have some familiar faces at his disposal as he prepares for the national spotlight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The final roster is below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: NY Red Bulls at Chivas USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July, 13, 2011
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
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.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. DC United

July, 9, 2011
A season sweep is at stake as the New York Red Bulls welcome longtime rival D.C. United to Red Bull Arena on Saturday evening.

New York enters Saturday's match with a 4-0 victory over DC at RFK Stadium on April 30 and on the heels of the offensive stampede that finished off lowly Toronto FC with a 5-0 win on Wednesday. Reigning MLS Player of the Week Joel Lindpere extended his goal-scoring streak to three games while all three Red Bulls forwards -- Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers, and Juan Agudelo -- found the back of the net for the home side.

D.C. United is repeating a refrain familiar to Red Bulls fans as they seek their first victory since May 29 after conceding a 2-2 draw to the Philadelphia Union last Saturday. DC received leads before and after halftime with Josh Wolff's fourth goal of the season in the 44th minute and a beautiful strike by young playmaker Andy Najar in the 58th minute, but surrendered each respective boost with an own goal by DC defender Perry Kitchen and a late equalizer by Guatemalan forward Carlos Ruiz that drew Philly level before the final whistle.

That DC (4-5-7, 19 pts) draw helped the Union (7-4-6, 27 pts) stay within a point of the first-place Red Bulls (6-3-10, 28 pts) in the Eastern Conference.

Triple Threat? For a side that has struggled to finish off sides at home or away since April, the four goals scored by the forward trio of Henry, Rodgers, and Agudelo should come as a sigh of relief to Red Bulls supporters.

Wednesday's outburst represents the first time any part of that trio has accrued a goal since Henry scored against the Portland Timbers on June 19. While Henry did contribute as Red Bulls coach Hans Backe combated a depth chart depleted by injuries and the Gold Cup, one still needs to go back to May 28 to find a goal by either Agudelo or Rodgers -- with the latter scoring an equalizer at Vancouver.

Key Matchup: De Rosario vs. McCarty. With the trade that sent Backe's long-coveted number 10 to DC still fresh in the minds of Red Bulls supporters, Canadian midfielder Dwayne De Rosario will make his first visit to Red Bull Arena since being dealt for Dax McCarty on June 27.

Their styles contrast considerably -- De Rosario's attack-oriented while McCarty favors a holding midfield role -- but the swapped duo will need to go through one another to support their respective sides. To get behind the Red Bulls back line, De Rosario will need to beat McCarty's line of defense. To halt United's attack, McCarty will need to pick up the slack created by the absence of Teemu Tainio -- Tainio is serving an automatic one-game suspension due to his accumulated yellow card total -- and continue the clever distribution he displayed against Toronto FC while disrupting the DC passing lanes that now feed De Rosario.

These two midfielders will collide, with the better performance sure to be used as evidence of the greater beneficiary of the trade.

'Keeping Score. Just two days after Red Bulls GM Erik Solér publicly stated the club's interest in acquiring a new netminder via free agency, Red Bulls shot stopper Greg Sutton answered the call with his second clean sheet of the season. The Reds hardly challenged the Canadian 'keeper for most of Wednesday's match, but Sutton capably made five saves to add to the Red Bulls domination of TFC.

But what can he do for an encore? Sutton's shutout against a rebuilding Reds side will not silence doubters unless he or Bouna Coundoul can keep it going against DC -- if it isn't already too late. According to Jack Bell of the New York Times, the Red Bulls are already kicking the tires on longtime German goalkeeper Frank Rost for the stretch run.

Goal Giveaway. De Rosario will need to lead the charge for the visiting side, but his work will be for naught if his defense surrenders the gains of DC's offense. DC has allowed 1.81 goals per game this season, which is the worst rate in league play this season. That deficiency has created a -6 goal differential for United, which ranks 5th worst in MLS in 2011.

DC 'keeper Bill Hamid shares the blame for those poor totals with a non-descript back line that only features Kitchen, a rookie, among its bright spots. The suddenly-potent Red Bulls attack should find ample chances to direct shots on target against a DC back line that presently seeks a right back and other help on defense.

United We Strike. That said, DC United has scored at a rate of 1.44 goals per game this season, which is third best in MLS (the Red Bulls rank first with 1.79 goals per game). DC's attack is potent as the combination of team captain Wolff, reclamation project Charlie Davies, and DC mainstay Chris Pontius pack a scoring punch worth 17 of the club's 23 goals this season. With De Rosario providing service to that trio along with Najar off the bench, the Red Bulls defenders cannot rest on their result against Toronto FC if they hope to hold the back line intact against the visiting side.