New York Soccer: Zarek Valentin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Chivas USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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