The supporters of the New York Red Bulls vowed that they would bring “raucous” for the entire 90 minutes during this last home game, before the boys head on the road for 4 matches against the likes of the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes. Not only was this the last game, but the Red Bulls had yet to win a game since April 30th. The supporters came out in full force with a handful wearing ties over their Red Bull attire in hopes of breaking the “tie-curse”, and it seemed to pay off.
As some of the starters, including Rafa Marquez, Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream are still away on “Gold Cup” duty, Coach Backe decided on a 4-4-2 formation, with Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry both upfront, the midfield made up of Medhi Ballouchy, Teemo Tainio, Joel Lindpere and Austin Da Luz, and the defense consisting of Stephen Keel, Roy Miller, Carlos Mendes and Jan Gunnar Solli, with Greg Sutton guarding the goal.
From the minute the whistle blew, RBNY was on the attack with Rodger’s first attempt of the evening coming in the 20th second. The first fifteen minutes of the game seemed to be all about Rodgers with 5 attempts that just did not seem to find the net. Frustration for both Rodgers and the fans, that kept getting louder with every attempt. The frustration felt by all players, which led to a reckless foul from Keel that granted New England a penalty kick in the 33rd minute. An amazing save by Sutton kept New England from taking the lead, but merely four minutes later, an own goal by Ryan Cochrane put New York in the lead.
As the second half kicked off, the Red Bulls were fighting to hold onto their lead, which seemed solidified in the 50th minute when Thierry Henry found the net, assisted by Keel. This goal would be Henry’s 7th goal for the season, making him the 2nd highest goal scorer in the MLS following LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan. New England on the other hand kept attacking, and their efforts paid off in the 53rd minute when Zak Boggs found the net, assisted by Chris Tierney and Didier Domi. This would be the first goal for Boggs this season.
Backe brought on youngsters Corey Hertzog and John Rooney; both great talents looking to make their mark on the field. Henry falling back and opening up for Hertzog, who seemed to struggle finding the passes from Henry, it seemed as if Hertzog may need to run in further to find the ball, but being my first time watching him play, I found myself thoroughly impressed by his skills.
The 86th minute saw a goal from New England; one that was called off sides to the pleasure of the RBNY fans who saw the squad give up a goal in the last minute against Columbus in their last game. The final whistle could not come any sooner, and once it did relief could be seen all over the faces of both the players and the fans. The “tie-streak” had finally been broken.
Backe stated “It was a strange game. I don’t remember the last time I saw that many chances, but it was mentally important to pick up 3 points.” Furthermore, Backe stated that there was some work to be done on the defensive line, referring to Da Luz and Keel, but with 9 days till their next match, the problem should be resolved. It is one of concern as Backe stated “Every cross that New England had in the second half was almost a chance”. As the squad heads out on their road trip, the defensive line is of crucial importance as the squads they are set to face are stronger on attacks than New England.
Backe praised the squad saying “They looked confident and composed. There was a huge difference against New England in the last fifteen minutes, in comparison to Columbus.” Backe went on to say that he could not expect the team to dictate games, as it is hard to start with 4 or 5 new starters.
The players all seemed relieved, and ready for the games that lay ahead. Keel stating that it is going to be a “great battle” against the Portland Timbers as they have big forwards and dangerous set pieces. Ballouchy was just as happy that the team had won, “We just needed to get that win, then you get back into a groove.” His thoughts on the games ahead, “I think we can definitely win, I have faith in the team.”
This win brought the New York Red Bulls back to the #1 spot in the Eastern Conference leading with 22 points, Philadelphia Union merely one point behind RBNY. For now, all focus is on the next four away matches starting with Portland Timbers on June 19th.
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