New York Soccer: San Jose Earthquakes

RBNY Recap: Galaxy's free kicks finish off Red Bulls' run in MLS Playoffs

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
12:58
PM ET

On a night where they committed twice as many fouls as their opponent, an errant kick effectively set the Red Bulls free from any further MLS postseason obligations. Ain't that a kick in the head?

Actually, yes. Landon Donovan still needed to convert the awarded penalty kick moments later to cement the Los Angeles Galaxy's 2-1 win over the Red Bulls on Thursday night and 3-1 win on aggregate in the MLS Western Conference semifinals, but it was a sloppy Roy Miller clearance kick to David Beckham's groggy noggin in the penalty area that made possible the last of a litany of free kicks which haunted New York all season.

It's a frustrating way to end a season, not only because the effective series winner was scored earlier in the match on another free kick -- that one courtesy of a Beckham free kick culminating in a header by newly-minted Red Bulls killer Mike Magee -- but moreso because the majority of goals typically scored in soccer come in the run of play. Free kicks are passing moments in soccer, with formations designed by coaches who understand fully that any greater strategy to defend against them will dissipate in seconds once the run of play is restored from the stoppage.

Of the 96 goals scored or allowed by the Red Bulls during the 2011 MLS regular season, 29 of them -- or approximately 30% -- resulted due to or immediately following a dead ball. New York finished 10 of those free kicks, meaning they allowed twice as many penalty-area headers and goalmouth tap-ins as they scored. Considering the Red Bulls committed two more fouls than they suffered per 90 minutes in 2011, that's enough of an inefficiency for a precision kicker like Beckham to exploit with ease.

It was also enough to make heroes of Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz last May and Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio in August and September. Free kicks let Dynamo striker Cam Weaver net an equalizer in the early goings of the season and let Seattle Sounders sub Roger Levesque finish off New York last summer.

Donovan and Beckham didn't just finish off the Red Bulls with their free kick follies. They finished off the Red Bulls again, joining a long list of opponents this season who just seemed to convert timely chances from dead balls while painfully reminding Luke Rodgers and his Red Bulls side that, despite finding their confidence and form late in the season, they remain the same ol' Red Bulls that can't defend against the set piece.

"We’re starting to get all over them," said Rodgers. "And, once again, we’re conceding from set pieces. I don’t care what team you’re on, if you’re conceding set-piece goals, you’re not going to win many games. If you look at the season, there’s been a pattern and we need to eliminate it next season or we will be in the same position."

That same position, watching some other side raise the MLS Cup in triumph, is one the Red Bulls have remained in for 15 seasons now and counting. They also remain in the same position as last season, as the San Jose Earthquakes also cut short the Red Bulls' postseason run in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal rounds.

Unfortunately, the Red Bulls finished out of position on their set pieces Thursday night as they have done enough times throughout the season to worry supporters everywhere. It was a combination of poor marking and a case of bad luck.

And, it resulted in the same ol' Red Bulls being kicked free and clear of the MLS Playoffs once again.

Tainio Take Out. Rodgers's goal in the 4th minute let the Red Bulls set the tone to open the match, but the injury to defensive midfielder Teemu Tainio 10 minutes later seemed to expose a gap in the Red Bulls midfield already missing a suspended Rafael Marquez. The troubles didn't follow immediately, but Thierry Henry admitted after the match that the absences of Tainio and Marquez made their mark on the final result.

“You kind of don’t think about it when you are playing the game," said Henry. "But we already lost Rafa. I don’t when exactly he came out, but losing a player like Teemu basically you losing two players that play in front of the defense usually. Now that I think about it you don’t want to have them out of the field, but we still gave them a good run.”

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe also admitted that Tainio's premature exit forced Henry to drop deeper into the midfield to provide support to Dax McCarty and Stephane Auvray.

"When Teemu is not on the pitch with his distribution, I feel Thierry likes to get involved deep as a second striker to get involved in the build up,” said Backe.

48. That's the last minute a Red Bulls player registered a shot on target as L.A. netminder Josh Saunders kept Rodgers out of the net in the 48th minute for his second and last save of the match. New York created multiple chances in the second half, but struggled to direct any of them on net against a Galaxy defense led by Omar Gonzalez that firmly established its shape.

“I think that we figured out how to deal with them," said Donovan. "Henry came back into the midfield and made it difficult. He was finding little spots and we were kind of pulled apart. I think once we figured that out and once we were better with the ball we started picking them apart and creating chances."

Two Step. New York were the only MLS club to claim a regular season series win against the Galaxy with a draw in May and win in October. That provides little consolation to Henry, who concedes that the Galaxy ultimately won the matches when they counted the most.

“They won," said Henry. "They beat us at our place. They beat us at their place. So, at the end of the day, there’s nothing to say about it. We gave it a go.”

Rapid Reax: Galaxy 2, Red Bulls 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Reax: Sporting KC 2, Red Bulls 0

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
5:59
PM ET
A quick temper may make a fool of Thierry Henry if New York fails to make the MLS Playoffs.

Henry's 28th-minute red card for a retaliatory hit on midfielder Roger Espinoza near the center circle left the Red Bulls short-handed for more than an hour in a 2-0 loss against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday afternoon.

The ejection also means the Red Bulls will head into their season finale match with their playoff lives at stake and without their team captain, who now must serve an automatic one-game suspension for his red card.

Despite creating ample scoring chances before and after Henry's exit, Sporting KC did not break through until phenom forward Teal Bunbury finally finished a Julio Cesar pass in the 57th minute to put the home side up for good. Second-half substitute C.J. Sapong added the insurance goal in the 74th minute by connecting a volley at the six-yard box past a helpless Frank Rost to remove any doubt about the match's ultimate result -- and despite entering the match only 40 seconds earlier.

Saturday's draw blows the MLS playoff race wide open as it gives both D.C. United (9-11-11, 38 pts) and the Portland Timbers (11-14-7, 40 points) a clearer postseason path at the expense of the Red Bulls (9-8-16, 43 points). D.C. plays Saturday night against a Chicago Fire side with no meaningful games left to play this season before kicking off against Portland next Wednesday. New York remains in control of its playoff tiebreakers, but now needs D.C. United to concede a loss or draw to re-establish its grip on a suddenly fleeting wild-card berth.

Play of the Game: Henry's Red Card. After quelling an early burst by the Sporting KC attack, the Red Bulls imposed their "cynical soccer" routine into a match that quickly devolved into a war of attrition.

And then the game experienced its first casualty. Referee Kevin Stott showed Henry a straight red card in the 28th minute for what was described as "violent conduct" -- but was actually Henry putting his knee into Espinoza's back mere moments after Espinoza intercepted Henry's run and despite Henry having ample opportunity to avoid it. That left the Red Bulls short-handed for more than an hour on Saturday afternoon in a match where they controlled their own destiny.

Barring a reversal by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, the red card means Henry will miss next Thursday's finale against Philadelphia that New York now needs to win if D.C. gets hot and his pursuit of the Golden Boot likely comes to an end if either D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario or San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski net one goal in their remaining games. Any lingering sentiments about awarding Henry with the league MVP award also just went out the window.

Hans Backe has said all season that Henry's backup, Juan Agudelo, isn't ready for the spotlight. Well, the teenage phenom better get ready and quick for the Red Bulls to have any shot at sealing their playoff fate.

Feeling Cornered. Harkening back to an early-season concern about set pieces, both Sporting Kansas City goals started from corner kicks and finished with a KC attacker striking a ball in a penalty-box scrum. New York actually received more corner kicks (six) than Sporting KC (five), but the latter clearly made the most of their chances to capitalize on their one-man advantage.

Chance After Chance. It's tough to win a soccer match if you don't score, but that was the trouble facing the Red Bulls before and after they lost their team captain. Bunbury and fellow KC forward Omar Bravo led the attacking efforts for the home side with 23 chances created and seven shots on goal, while the Red Bulls managed to muster only six attempts total that resulted in one clear Dane Richards shot on target that KC 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen punched skyward and a Joel Lindpere shot in the second half.

Dax Not There. One Red Bull that didn't make the trip to Kansas City was Dax McCarty. According to the MSG broadcast, the Red Bulls suspended their feisty defensive midfielder for one match due to what was only described as an "internal team matter" by a team spokesperson. He will be available for selection in the regular season finale against Philadelphia.

As Red Bulls coach Hans Backe continues to keep Rafael Marquez in the midfield, McCarty's playing time in recent weeks has suffered as a result. That likely would have continued on Saturday, though McCarty has seen playing time as a substitute off the bench and has curried more favor with Backe recently as opposed to Guadeloupan midfielder and former Sporting KCer Stephane Auvray (who did make the trip).

New York now returns home to sit and wait to see if they get help in short-circuiting D.C. United's playoff push before kicking off against the Philadelphia Union at home next Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Sporting KC

October, 15, 2011
10/15/11
10:22
AM ET
An MLS playoff opportunity will knock on the door in Kansas City this afternoon. Are the Red Bulls ready to answer it?

The New York Red Bulls make their inaugural visit to Livestrong Sporting Park to kick off against Sporting Kansas City in an afternoon match rife with playoff implications. New York arrives with its playoff destiny in its own hands following a 2-0 win over a beleaguered Los Angeles Galaxy side on Oct. 4, though the red-hot Red Bulls side that had won three of its last five contests needs to regain form following an 11-day hiatus due to the international break.

The Red Bulls also lead the regular season series over SKC after Luke Rodgers scored the game-winner in a 1-0 result at Red Bull Arena on April 30.

Sporting Kansas City comes home looking for better results following a stretch of accruing three draws in four matches. They arrive in shaky form after quickly conceding an equalizer following a go-ahead goal by Kevin Ellis in their international friendly against Mexican powerhouse C.D. Guadalajara last Wednesday, though Teal Bunbury netted a late equalizer of his own in SKC's MLS regular season match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 1.

The Houston Dynamo (11-9-13, 46 pts) did their job in boosting the Red Bulls' playoff profile with a win on Friday night that delivered a near-fatal blow to the postseason chances of their opponent, the Portland Timbers (11-14-7, 40 pts). A New York (9-7-16, 43 pts) win coupled with a D.C. United loss (9-11-11, 38 pts) would put the Red Bulls in position to effectively clinch a playoff berth as they control tiebreakers over Portland and D.C. It would also vault them over Sporting KC (11-9-12, 45 pts) and into an Eastern Conference automatic berth if the Columbus Crew (12-12-8, 44 pts) lose or draw on Saturday.

Who Wants It More? New York's not the only club playing with playoff aspirations on Saturday, as a Red Bulls loss would clinch a playoff berth for Sporting. SKC's footing may be a little surer than the Red Bulls, but a loss at home would surely deal a major blow to any club's playoff chances at such a late stage of the season.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe continues to preach the tenets of "cynical soccer," a possession-driven style similar to the Italian Catenaccio system but with a stronger emphasis on playing keep away rather than for keeps, while Sporting coach Peter Vemes's 4-3-3 system caters to a more attack-friendly, possession-oriented offense. Backe's side will make it as hard as possible for SKC to create pressure in the attacking third, but SKC needs to not leave themselves vulnerable to the counter by making a mistake. Will either side blink?

Key Matchup: Ream vs. Bravo. Saturday will be Tim Ream's first chance to move on from the gaffe which created the Ecuador scoring chance that sent the U.S. Men's National Team to a 1-0 loss at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. Unlike under Jurgen Klinsmann's system, Ream won't come on as a substitute on Saturday -- he'll be expected to anchor a Red Bulls back line against a possession-savvy SKC attack.

Ream's first chance at redemption will come by marking a world-class striker in Omar Bravo. The Mexican forward shares the team lead in goals scored with fellow forward Kei Kemara at nine, though Bravo reached the total despite missing five matches in the early part of the season due to a sports hernia.

Support will come for Ream and the Red Bulls' back line in the form of Stephen Keel and Bravo's Mexican national team peer in Rafael Marquez, but the spotlight will shine brightly on the 24-year-old center back. Someone has to get in the way of an SKC attack that's been shutout only once in MLS regular season play since June, and Ream will once again be charged with taking up those reins.

30. That's how many points Sporting Kansas City has accumulated in their new home at Livestrong Sporting Park, which is the second-highest total in the Eastern Conference (the Crew lead with 32 points) and fourth-highest in all of MLS. The Red Bulls have 16 points on the road, but 10 of those came from draws.

For a Red Bulls side that needs to keep winning to keep their playoff plans within their own control, they'll need to buck a couple of trends if they hope to win at one of the toughest places to play in the league -- a place that wasn't anyone's home until SKC's 11th match of the season.

Rost Rested. No Red Bulls player benefited more from the international break than goalkeeper Frank Rost. With his international duty days far behind him, Rost had eleven days to rest his legs and recuperate from any lingering effects of his quad injury following an intense five-game stretch over three weeks that saw the German netminder collect three wins and three clean sheets in the end.

His recent play has erased any lingering doubts about Red Bulls sporting director Erik Solér's decision to use a designated player slot in net and quieted any debate that reserve 'keeper Bouna Coundoul should be starting.

Going Streaking. Red Bulls team captain Thierry Henry heads to Kansas City mired in a three-way tie in the Golden Boot race. The French striker has scored in his club's last two matches to draw level at 14 goals with D.C. United midfielder and former Red Bull Dwayne De Rosario and Quakes striker Chris Wondolowski, with the latter netting a double against the New England Revolution last Saturday to vault into the race.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Portland Timbers

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
1:28
PM ET
They've certainly talked the talk. Now it's time to walk the walk.

Three days after enduring a demoralizing 3-0 loss at home to Real Salt Lake as well as inflammatory post-game comments by Rafael Marquez, New York seeks to stabilize its form on Saturday Night at Red Bull Arena against a Portland Timbers side seeking to end the Red Bulls' postseason push. That's not to say Fabian Espindola's double against a dysfunctional Red Bulls defense will keep the Timbers out of focus this weekend, as the two sides faced off in a fast and furious 3-3 draw at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland on June 19.

Portland arrives at Red Bull Arena in sole possession of the final wild card berth after collecting one point at home in a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. Kenny Cooper chipped home a Darlington Nagbe cross to give the Timbers a lead in the 9th minute, only to see Khari Stephenson net the equalizer for the Quakes with 20 minutes to play.

Following Wednesday's draw, the Timbers (10-12-7, 37 pts) claimed a one-point lead among all MLS sides jockeying for the final wild card berth including the Red Bulls (7-7-15, 36 pts). D.C. United (8-8-11, 35 pts) surrendered a 2-2 draw to fringe postseason prospect Chivas USA (7-12-11, 32 pts) on Wednesday, but still possess two games in hand on both the Timbers and Red Bulls. Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo (9-9-12, 39 pts) still stand in between the Red Bulls and the final Eastern Conference automatic berth following a 1-1 draw for the third-place Philadelphia Union (9-7-13, 40 pts) at Sporting Kansas City on Friday.

Rafa Remanded. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe suspended his Mexican center back for Saturday's match due to Marquez's comments criticizing his teammates including Tim Ream. Backe declared the issue an "internal" manner, but will need to externalize his resolution to Marquez's self-inflicted absence soon.

Marquez's suspension likely opens to the door to Stephen Keel pairing with Ream at center back, with Carlos Mendes stepping in at fullback in place of the injured Roy Miller and Chris Albright.

Key Matchup: NY's Back Line vs. Bruised Egos. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls back four, Marquez's comments touched a nerve exposed by the club's poor defensive form in recent weeks. Whether or not Marquez himself played above or below the level of his teammates is debatable, but the net result has been far below what one would expect of a club that entered the season with MLS Cup aspirations.

If Marquez's teammates want to prove him wrong, they'll need to start by making their own wrongs right on defense. With five games left in the season and a match against another side looking to benefit with a playoff berth at the Red Bulls expense, the back line simply has no time to brood over the disparaging comments made by Marquez. Backe will once again pick a makeshift back four against the Timbers, but it was a Marquez-less makeshift four that helped 'keeper Frank Rost collect his first MLS win and clean sheet just one week ago at FC Dallas.

Saturday's makeshift four will have their hands full keeping Cooper and Nagbe at bay while taking great care to not allow any free kicks in favorable positions for Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury. Ream, Keel, Mendes, and Jan Gunnar Solli know what they need to do -- but can they do it?

Fresh Start. New York's visit to Jeld-Wen Field earlier this season resulted in a wild finish and all the controversy that one can squeeze out of 90 minutes, but the players who led to that result are now out of the picture. Adam Moffat, who engaged Henry in a verbal exchange that resulted in a straight red card for the French striker, is now patrolling the midfield for the Dynamo after a July trade. Meanwhile, the man who scored the equalizer via penalty kick for the Red Bulls, Dwayne De Rosario, is now plying his trade for conference rival D.C. United.

That only leaves Henry with any kind of axe to grind for their recent history, with his teammates and the Portland Starting XI unlikely to feel compelled to seek revenge.

Edge of Glory. If the MLS regular season ended right now and the Red Bulls and Timbers were level in the standings, the Red Bulls would get the edge for the final wild card berth due to the league's tiebreaker scenarios. New York presently has a +3 goal differential as compared to Portland's -2, which isn't an insurmountable gap but should hold up over the final five matches.

However, a club's record in head-to-head matches trumps goal differential in playoff tiebreaker scenarios. Since the Red Bulls and Timbers battled to a draw in June, that means a win to either side would immediately give that victorious club the edge in tiebreakers while a draw would keep the edge at goal differential.

Down and Away. Portland has seen a fair amount of success in recent weeks, which includes three wins fueling a five-game unbeaten streak that has the Timbers right in the mix for a wild card berth. However, all three wins came in the cozy confines of Jeld-Wen Field.

The Timbers have not seen that kind of success on the road in their inaugural season, with a 1-4-8 record away for Jeld-Wen to show for their efforts. In fact, Portland has yet to score more than one goal in any MLS regular season game on the road. If there were ever a club whom the Red Bulls needed to run up the score against, it is this Timbers club.

RBNY Recap: Dreadful defense does Red Bulls in against rolling RSL

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
12:32
AM ET
It was over before New York ever got started.

Defensive miscues put the Red Bulls in a three-goal hole by the 21st minute to a rolling Real Salt Lake side that went on to collect a 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday evening. Though Alvaro Saborio opened the scoring for RSL in the 7th minute by heading home an Andy Williams corner kick, it was a Fabian Espindola brace built on bad coverage by the Red Bulls back line that left the home side far behind the second-best club by points in MLS.

A Joel Lindpere bicycle kick of a Rafael Marquez corner in the 69th minute spoiled the clean sheet for RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando on what was the Red Bulls' second of four shots on target during the match, but New York couldn't follow it up to prevent the Claret-and-Cobalt's fifth consecutive win in regular season play.

According to the MLS Playoff Standings, the Red Bulls (7-7-15, 36 pts) now sit one point behind the Portland Timbers (10-12-7, 37 pts) for the final postseason wild card berth following Portland's 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. Despite the loss to RSL, New York's playoff hopes received some help from an old friend as a second-half brace by Chivas USA striker and former Red Bulls forward Juan Pablo Angel forced D.C. United (8-8-11, 35 pts) to settle for a 2-2 draw and a one-point gap for the final playoff spot.

The Boo Bird Migration. No Red Bulls defender is above scrutiny after Wednesday's sorry display. Even Chris Albright found himself on the pitch for two of three RSL strikes before leaving the match in the 15th minute due to a calf injury.

But the Red Bulls supporters focused their disdain on Marquez, who heard a chorus of boos with his every touch on the ball. Though Marquez picked up his play following Espindola's second goal, nothing -- not even his assist on Lindpere's goal -- had any effect on the fans' appraisals of him.

According to the MLS Players Union, Marquez is due to receive $4.6 million this year in compensation. RSL's starting back line of Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Robbie Russell, and Chris Schuler are to make just over $510,000 in combined compensation. When the face of your back line is making nine times what the best defense in MLS will take home in pay and can't back it up with his play, it will make that player the lightning rod for any troubles perceived by fans. It's unclear if Marquez could ever climb out of those lofty expectations -- or, as ESPN's Jeff Carlisle wonders, if New York should even let him try anymore.

Play of the Game: Ream's Inadvertent Assist. When a Saborio header put the Red Bulls behind on the score sheet early, it didn't hint at the troubles to follow. On the one hand, Teemu Tainio's adequate marking of the RSL forward just came up one step short as Saborio beat him by a step to connect with Williams's free kick. On the other hand, 15 draws this season can attest to New York's penchant for leveling any score in short order.

Then Tim Ream's youth reared its ugly head. Jan Gunnar Solli snuck out of RSL pressure by crossing a ball to Ream near New York's own penalty spot. However, Ream failed to cleanly receive Solli's pass as he felt pressure from a rushing Espindola. Rather than clear the ball, Ream effectively lined up Espindola's shot in the 11th minute as he tapped the ball forward to no one in particular. Espindola recovered the loose ball and beat a helpless Frank Rost to collect RSL's second goal of the night.

It wasn't so much the 2-0 deficit itself that made the game suddenly appear insurmountable as it was the back line's role in the collapse. In addition to Ream's gaffe, Espindola timed his run perfectly just ten minutes later to catch Solli and Marquez on their heels and flick a Collen Warner through ball past Rost for goal number three. And although the Red Bulls defense limited RSL to a meager six attempts on goal, it's of no comfort as half of those attempts found the back of the net.

"Unfortunately, two terrible individual mistakes changed the game," said Red Bulls coach Hans Backe. "I don’t think we played poor or anything, but it’s frustrating with that kind of individual mistake. It kills the first half definitely, and the game."

Dulled Edge. RSL's surgical precision with their strikes helped them control the run of play for the majority of Wednesday's match, but it wasn't for lack of effort on New York's part. The Red Bulls accrued double the attempts on goal, triple the number of corner kicks, and took as many shots on target as RSL took all night. They merely failed to finish any of those chances until Lindpere's volley put a crooked number in the home side's score column.

67 Minutes. That's how long it took the Red Bulls to register a shot on target. You can point to the four shots taken by Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry that missed the mark, but it's unfair to fault them for a midfield that, except for Dane Richards, was invisible for large portions of the match. Lindpere followed up the first shot moments later with the Red Bulls first goal and Juan Agudelo almost finished a nice header in stoppage time before being stopped by Rimando, but it was all too little too late for German shot stopper Frank Rost.

"It’s difficult to answer right now after the match," said Rost. "We woke up too late. Only one half is not enough for the MLS. You have to play 90 minutes, not 45."

Two. That's the minimum number of wins New York will need to collect over their final five matches to reach Backe's declaration of needing 45 points to reach the playoffs. Backe's club can still reach that total with three wins or by collecting two wins and three ties, though neither possibility feels likely considering the club's recent form.

"We need to pick up wins, that’s for sure," said Backe. "Probably three or four wins out of five to make the playoffs."

New York will need to shake off this loss and prepare for a match ripe with playoff implications this Saturday against a Portland Timbers side hoping to reclaim a tiebreaker over the Red Bulls this weekend. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at FC Dallas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire

August, 13, 2011
8/13/11
11:30
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Is home where the heart is for the New York Red Bulls?

21 days, three matches, one MLS All-Star Game, and one trade with a conference rival later, the Red Bulls finally return home to Red Bull Arena on Saturday for a conference clash with the Chicago Fire. A second-half goal by Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa helped Chicago save a draw in the first leg of their regular season encounters on June 25, while the Fire took offense to New York's decision to effectively punt their US Open Cup quarterfinal match at Toyota Park away by decimating the shorthanded side of baby Bulls with a 4-0 win on July 12.

New York looks to claim their first victory in over a month after a discouraging 3-0 loss at Real Salt Lake last weekend deflated the club's spirits following their Emirates Cup win. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman fueled the Claret-and-Cobalt attack against a Red Bulls side that failed to recover from its own mistakes and lost not just the game but also starting goalkeeper Frank Rost and Norwegian winger Jan Gunnar Solli to injury.

Chicago continues to reestablish a club identity that once haunted all Eastern Conference clubs by fostering its speedy attack led by Pappa, Dominic Oduro, and Diego Chaves. The Fire arrive at Red Bull Arena still plagued by its season-long inconsistency, most recently following a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union with a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps last week.

Sporting Kansas City (7-7-9, 30 pts) remains tied with Red Bulls (6-6-12, 30 pts) for third place, while four points separate the two clubs from the conference-leading Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts). The second-place Union (8-5-9, 33 pts), who announced the signing of the American phenom Freddy Adu on Friday, also stand between the Red Bulls and first place.

The New Guy. New York announced on Friday that it acquired Guadeloupean defensive midfielder Stéphane Auvray in a trade with conference rival Sporting Kansas City. Sporting KC received New York’s natural 2013 second round MLS SuperDraft pick as compensation.

Auvray held down the defensive midfield role for Sporting KC (then the Kansas City Wizards) in 2010 until a nagging knee injury appeared to weaken his form down the stretch. Still in the club's plans for 2011, he failed to regain that 2010 form and saw his playing time dwindle until he departed to captain the Guadaloupe side in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June. His playing time did not return after the Gold Cup, leaving the discontent midfielder sitting out from practices until Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes found him a new home.

Now, Auvray arrives at Red Bull Arena to a club still grasping at playoff straws and with an opening in the midfield necessitated by the nagging injuries and illness plaguing Teemu Tainio and the ineffectiveness of Dax McCarty. What will he contribute to the playoff chase?

Key Matchup: Dane Richards vs. Chicago's Back Line. The trio of Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere, and Juan Agudelo remain the only active Red Bulls to net a goal in regular season play since June. Agudelo mustered New York's only shot on goal against Real Salt Lake last weekend, creating further questions about where to look for a much-needed offensive outburst.

That's where Dane Richards comes in. The Jamaican midfielder missed last Saturday's match while serving a one-game suspension for a red card and left New York lacking pace on the right flank that Richards consistently delivers -- especially after Solli left the game due to injury.

Richards now returns to a Red Bulls attack that will look to exploit the absence of Chicago defender Cory Gibbs, who will miss Saturday's match with a groin injury. New York knows what to expect from Henry, Lindpere, and Agudelo, but what it gets from the return of Richards may be the catalyst for the Red Bulls' stagnant offense.

Bouna Time is the Right Time. With Rost missing action on a week-to-week basis due to a right quadriceps tear, Bouna Coundoul is expected to get his first MLS start since collecting consecutive draws against the Fire on June 26 and San Jose Earthquakes on July 2. Coundoul also started for the baby Bulls squad in the US Open Cup quarterfinal match against the Fire.

Coundoul's familiarity with facing the Fire this season may ease the loss of Rost to a Red Bulls squad that went all-in on their third designated player. Coundoul just needs to show his resiliency from jet lag after making a round trip to Dakar this week for international duty as well as shaking off any disappointment from his role in his native Senegal's 2-0 upset loss to Morocco on Wednesday.

Second to None. Chicago has scored the second-fewest number of goals of any MLS club with 24, just one more than the league-worst 23 goals by New England. That comes despite taking the third-most shots (315) and fifth-most shots on goal (106), indicating a trouble for the Fire of being able to hit 'em where they ain't -- but at the goalmouth.

For a Fire side built on speed, it remains susceptible to having their attack broken up by traffic -- giving newcomer Auvray and McCarty along with the Red Bulls back line an added incentive to pick up their own pace and take a few balls away from the visitors.

Three to Tango. While much has been made of the Red Bulls troubles of late, they can still boast a healthy 5-2-4 record at home. New York's last three wins all came at home, though one must go all the way back to an April 30 win over Sporting Kansas City to complete that trifecta.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Chivas USA

July, 16, 2011
7/16/11
11:22
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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 MLSsoccer.com 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.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC

July, 6, 2011
7/06/11
8:48
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Two win-deprived Eastern Conference foes face off at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday evening as a rebuilding Toronto FC side opens the season series against the New York Red Bulls.

New York seeks to restore their winning ways after conceding their third draw in four matches in a 1-1 result against the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday. MLS Player of the Week Joel Lindpere provided the scoring touch for the Red Bulls with a double that erased a Steven Lenhart header and a Bouna Coundoul gaffe that led to a goal by Quakes midfielder Khari Stephenson.

Toronto FC arrives with a new addition to their trophy case after claiming a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Nutralite Canadian Championship final at BMO Field on Saturday. NCC tournament MVP Joao Plata set up a tap-in for Belgian defender Mikael Yourassowsky in the 61st minute for the game winner as the Reds, who also ended a nine-game winless streak in MLS play with a 1-0 victory against the 'Caps last Wednesday, won the Voyageurs Cup for the third consecutive season.

FC Dallas helped the Red Bulls (5-3-10, 25 pts) reclaim sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew (6-5-6, 24 points) on Saturday, though New York remains two points behind the first-place Philadelphia Union (7-4-6, 27 pts).

'Keeping Their Options Open. With Coundoul being unable to overcome the occasional Bouna blunder thus far and Greg Sutton unable to steal a game thus far, goalkeeping remains an area of concern for the Red Bulls. The uncertainty has fueled speculation about reserve 'keeper Alex Horwath getting the nod against TFC, but Red Bulls GM Erik Solér acknowledges that help between the posts may need to come from elsewhere.

"We are looking to create one or two more moves," Solér said to ESPN.com's Leander Schaerlaeckens on July 4. "We are looking for a goalkeeper, that's one position. In the other position, we are looking for somebody who can go straight into the lineup."

Schaerlaeckens cites Solér as saying that the Red Bulls expect to acquire a potential shot stopper via free agency. "We have been scanning all over the market to see if there are any options," Solér said. "The player has to be a free transfer and have a salary [demand] we can live with."

If Coundoul and Sutton want that chatter to stop, they'll need to start collecting clean sheets against the club with the second-lowest win total in MLS this season.

Key Matchup: Red Bulls's Left Defense vs. TFC's Wingers. TFC head coach Aron Winter implemented the attack-friendly 4-3-3 system he learned from his AFC Ajax tenure, and before he necessarily had the personnel to execute it properly. That means the Reds will look to their wingers to build the attack, but the likes of Plata, Dan Gargan, and Nick Soolsma -- who scored his first goal of the season against the 'Caps last Wednesday -- have the weight of youth and inexperience bearing down on their shoulders.

That recipe should make for a textbook defensive performance for Tim Ream and Roy Miller, but that pairing fell apart as the Quakes focused their attack on the right wing in the second half on Saturday. According to the MLSsoccer.com Chalkboard feature, Miller lost possession of the ball 12 times in the second half compared to seven in the first half, while Ream relinquished control six times in the second half compared to three before halftime. When Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski rallied the Quakes attack, Ream and Miller crumbled.

It should help to have some in-game experience with the new holding midfield tandem of Teemu Tainio and Dax McCarty, but the onus remains on Ream and Miller to tighten up and disrupt the lateral passing lanes between the Reds wingers and their forwards.

Many Happy Returns. Thierry Henry is expected to return from the flu-like symptoms that sidelined him against San Jose, but the big news is that Luke Rodgers is expected to join him after missing the last four matches with plantar fasciitis. The English forward, who still ranks second for the club lead with five goals, trained with the first team on Tuesday and reported no pain in the left foot that precluded him from joining the Red Bulls on their recent road trip.

Meanwhile, the Reds' first visit to Red Bull Arena this season also includes a sort of homecoming for Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman, both of whom were included by the Red Bulls in the April 1 trade for Dwayne De Rosario.

Tchani, who showed great promise in the Red Bulls' midfield in 2010, has missed the past four MLS matches with an ankle injury but did appear as a substitute in the NCC final. Borman has played his way into the TFC back line and shown great creativity from the left back position with his crosses and with his restraint.

Not Ready for Primetime. TFC made a big splash on the personnel front last Friday after announcing the club's acquisition of German defensive midfielder Torsten Frings and Dutch striker Danny Koevermans.

However, the pairing are not officially eligible to join the Reds until the transfer window opens on July 15. That means the Red Bulls will get a good look at the depleted Toronto side, but they can take few lessons from it for the rematch at BMO Field in October.

Numbers Game. While clubs managed by Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe remain unbeaten at 19-0-8 in games where they score first, seven of those eight draws have occurred in the 11 matches since a win against Sporting Kansas City on April 30. New York is 0-2-1 in matches where they don't score first over that stretch, meaning their path to boasting an unbeaten streak rather than a winning streak continues to come from conceding a lot of leads.

Rapid Reaction: Earthquakes 2, Red Bulls 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at San Jose Earthquakes

July, 2, 2011
7/02/11
9:00
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Their long and winding road trip leads the Red Bulls to the door of the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday evening (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

While New York carries the goodwill of their 2-1 comeback win against FC New York in the US Open Cup match on Tuesday, they still possess only one win since April 30 in MLS play after conceding a 1-1 draw to the Chicago Fire on Sunday. Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa answered a first-half goal by Joel Lindpere with a soft shot that badly beat Bouna Coundoul in the NY goalie's first start in seven matches. New York will look to complete the season sweep after a Luke Rodgers brace left the Quakes chasing a 3-0 result on April 16.

San Jose will look to reestablish its scoring touch after completing a scoreless draw at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday. The Quakes could not finish off a shorthanded LA side that called upon former Red Bulls midfielder Mike Magee to mind the net for more than a half after Galaxy shot stoppers Donovan Ricketts and Josh Saunders left due to an injury and a red card, respectively.

New York (5-3-9) sits two points behind the Philadelphia Union (7-4-5) in the Eastern Conference standings and find themselves tied with the Columbus Crew (6-4-6) for second place.

Dax's a Fact. The Red Bulls' midfield will have a new look as it debuts midfielder Dax McCarty on Saturday. New York received the veteran midfielder in a trade with D.C. United for Dwayne De Rosario on Monday.

The change in personnel may initiate a transition from the Red Bulls' 4-4-2 diamond formation to a flatter 4-2-3-1, with the defensive-minded McCarty joining Teemu Tainio in a holding midfield tandem that's expected to ease transitions from defense to offense. Whatever new look is drawn up, McCarty's presence should free wingers Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere to reinforce NY's attack.

Key Matchup: Tim Ream v. the San Jose Forwards. While Juan Agudelo's return from the Gold Cup provides much-needed depth up top for New York, Tim Ream returns with a sense of urgency to quarterback a Red Bulls back line that has played to mixed results in recent weeks.

With Rafael Marquez still tending to a hamstring injury, Ream will need to lead the defensive efforts against a dangerous Quakes attack led by 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and the pesky presence of Steven Lenhart. Wondo -- who was Ream's roommate at the Gold Cup -- likes to play the scavenger role in the box while Lenhart tends to play a more abrasive style (A headbutt on the ball by Lenhart led to Saunders's ejection last week).

Ream didn't appear during the knockout stages of the Gold Cup, but Red Bulls coach Hans Backe gave his young center back some much-needed playing time alongside Stephen Keel during Tuesday's US Open Cup match. Ream will need to be ready for the full 90 at MLS speed against San Jose's dynamic duo.

Depth Charges. New York wasn't the only club to make a trade with D.C. United on Monday. San Jose dealt longtime center back Brandon McDonald to DC for cash considerations, which is perceived as an endorsement of defender Bobby Burling with Quakes back line stalwart Jason Hernandez.

McDonald has only played 12 minutes in the club's last six matches, meaning his departure should hardly disrupt the Quakes' attempts to keep Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls' attack at bay. That said, his departure should signal to the Red Bulls that San Jose is very comfortable with the status quo on defense -- and disrupting them could prove difficult.

Backe Out. Assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen will oversee the sideline responsibilities for the Red Bulls on Saturday as Backe stayed behind in New York to recover from surgery for an undisclosed condition. While all indications are that Halvorsen will implement whatever game plan Backe drew up for San Jose, it remains to be seen what that will look like with the Red Bulls debut of McCarty and reinsertion of Ream and Agudelo.

A Sort of Homecoming. During halftime of Saturday's match, the Earthquakes will welcome back the 1994 U.S. Men's National Team to the site of the US's last stand against Brazil during the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Following a five-minute montage recalling the US run on home soil, the likes of Cobi Jones, Paul Caligiuri, and Tab Ramos will be recognized for one of the more memorable runs in the nation's history.

No word on whether former Red Bulls captain Claudio Reyna will be in attendance, but it's no secret that the 1994 World Cup served as a catalyst for the rebirth of professional soccer in the United States under the banner of MLS -- which made this and every other great American soccer blog necessary.

RBNY Recap: Lil' Rooney lifts Bulls over FCNY

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
9:00
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If first impressions are everything, John Rooney's impression of his older brother's in-game heroics was a good start for Red Bulls supporters.

Rooney's bouncing strike from the arc stood up as the game winner for the Red Bulls during their 2-1 victory over the USL's FC New York in the third round of the 2011 US Open Cup tournament at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. The 65th minute goal by the English rookie and younger brother of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney followed an equalizer in the 58th minute by Corey Hertzog to cement the Red Bulls' first win in any competition since April 30.

The win also clinches a spot for the Red Bulls in the US Open Cup quarterfinals, where they will face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on July 12.

Playing a Kid's Game. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe fielded a side consisting largely of reserves against their derby dance partners, with only forward Juan Agudelo, center back Tim Ream, and goalkeeper Greg Sutton being among the regular contributors available for Tuesday's contest. Midfielder Austin da Luz and defender Stephen Keel also featured in the starting XI for the home side.

While Backe's decision to rest his regulars will cloud any evaluations of the Red Bulls' prognosis in the near term, it also provided an opportunity for the likes of Rooney and newly-acquired defender Mike Jones to make names for themselves. Tuesday will not be the last time anyone hears from the Red Bulls reserves, as Backe has already indicated his preference to field a similar lineup against the Fire in two weeks' time.

"It will be the same team," Backe said to Big Apple Soccer. "I just hope that we have 11 starters on July 12 because July is a killer for us. I think we have up to nine games now in July."

Play of the Game: FCNY's Go-Ahead Goal. The Red Bulls largely dominated possession throughout Tuesday's match, but could not break through in the first half against an efficient FCNY back line that did not miss a beat while defender and team captain Sam Stockley served a one-game suspension for receiving a red card in the club's second-round match.

When Owen Morrison opened the scoring for the visitors in the 56th minute, it raised concerns about the same old Red Bulls that have conceded leads to fine and feeble MLS sides over the past two months. Morrison caught Sutton on his heels with a strike from distance that tucked itself inside the top corner of the near post.

Unlike the Red Bulls' recent efforts, Morrison's goal seemed to unlock a sense of urgency in the home side's attacking efforts. Hertzog would answer the goal less than two minutes later with a strike past FCNY 'keeper Steve Diaz, while Rooney doubled it up with the game winner in less than 10 minutes of Morrison's breakthrough. The Red Bulls' back line kept disrupting the FCNY passing lanes to stifle their attack, giving Sutton little to do for the rest of the night.

Morrison's strike incited the Red Bulls to finish off their guests. It's a description that hasn't fit the home side for quite a while.

New Faces. Tuesday's match featured a great deal of new blood from the ranks of the reserves, but they may not be the only ones adjusting to call Red Bull Arena home in the near future.

Before the match, Red Bulls GM Erik Solér indicated that the trade that brought midfielder Dax McCarty to New York should also free up resources to acquire more depth in the coming weeks.

“The trade with DC is a straight one," Solér said to MLSsoccer.com. "We’re ending up with some money as Dax’s salary is less than De Ro’s. We’re going to do more moves in the summer. Money under the cap is good for us.”

The Red Bulls will train at home for a few days before taking yet another transcontinental road trip to face the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

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