New York Soccer: Sanna Nyassi

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas

July, 23, 2011
7/23/11
10:53
AM ET
With a stinging loss still fresh in their minds, the Red Bulls face one more test before a much-needed All-Star break as they welcome 2010 MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas to Red Bull Arena on Saturday evening.

New York returns home with its tail between its legs after being summarily trounced 4-1 by the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Sanna Nyassi created the offensive spark for the Rapids by netting his first career hat trick, while Thierry Henry spoiled Colorado's clean sheet by scoring his league-leading 10th goal of the season.

FC Dallas has claimed wins in four of their past six MLS regular season matches, with a 1-0 victory over a revamped Toronto FC squad on Wednesday capping their hot streak. Dallas midfielder Brek Shea burned TFC 'keeper Stefan Frei with a bold shot from distance that found the upper 90 of the near post to break a 242-minute scoreless drought for FC Dallas with the game's only goal. It was Shea's ninth goal of the season.

Nothing changed atop the Eastern Conference, as the Philadelphia Union (8-4-7, 31 points) remain two points better than the second-place Red Bulls (6-5-11, 29 points). The Columbus Crew (7-6-7, 28 points) continue to bide their time in third place.

Feel The Burn: As New York prepares to rebound from being burned by the Rapids and to face the MLS squad formally known as the Burn, their most pressing concern will involve the burning sun bearing down on them at first kick. The forecast predicts a temperature of 96 degrees at the start, not to mention the heat index nor what the surface temperature will feel like on the pitch.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe will need to take great care in not letting his squad overheat en route to finishing the club's last full 90 in MLS play for two weeks -- even if the looming 2011 MLS All-Star Game and Emirates Cup will preclude his squad from resting during that time.

Key Matchup -- Rafael Marquez vs. Brek Shea: Nyassi exposed a fatal flaw in the Red Bulls' back line on Wednesday as he blew past them on all three goals and set up the fourth: Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes lack speed.

Mercifully, Mendes will return to the bench as the Red Bulls welcome Rafael Marquez back to the back line in his first action since leaving the Gold Cup finale with a hamstring injury. New York will need Marquez to quickly plug the hole that Nyassi exploited for a hat trick, or risk FCD midfielders Andrew Jacobson, Daniel Hernandez and Martin Chavez providing service to Shea's lead on the FC Dallas attack through the same gap.

Fixing The Hype Machine: Juan Agudelo continues to carry the weight of lofty expectations on his shoulders after MLS commissioner Don Garber selected him with one of his two picks for next week's All-Star Game.

That unfortunate reality, combined with the lingering absence of Luke Rodgers, means the young Red Bulls forward will be asked to punch above his weight. He has four goals this season -- two during the Toronto FC blowout, one in April against D.C. United, and one in the season opener against Seattle -- and showed a bit of chemistry with Henry up top in setting up the former Gunner's goal on Wednesday.

That chemistry now fuels the Red Bulls offense, whether or not Agudelo is ready for that responsibility.

Scandinavian Shuffle: Backe may be without Teemu Tainio once again as he recovers from a quadriceps strain, which could lead to Mehdi Ballouchy starting alongside Dax McCarty at a holding midfield position, or on the left wing with Joel Lindpere entrenching at center midfield.

If those combinations don't work, the return of Chris Albright could give Backe another option at midfield with Jan Gunnar Solli. Backe has already indicated that Albright will not start on Saturday. But Solli, who has admirably filled the right back role in Albright's absence, is a natural midfielder and could be relieved of his defensive responsibilities with a late Albright substitution to join the Red Bulls attack.

Welcome Home: New York has only one win in 12 games on the road this season, but its home record of 5-2-3 implies that the cozy confines of Red Bull Arena could help lift their spirits. Combining that with an FC Dallas losing streak in New Jersey that stretches back to 2007, and there's a solid setup for the Red Bulls to end the supporters' planned silent protests and give them a reason to cheer.

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

July, 21, 2011
7/21/11
1:24
AM ET
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.

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