After a dramatic week, both on and off of the pitch, the New York Red Bulls showed that they were not ready to give up the fight for the last Wild Card Spot in the MLS standings. Tensions ran high following the controversial comments by Rafa Marquez on Wednesday night, following the loss against at home against RSL, where Marquez called his teammates “not on my level”.
Coach Hans Backe chose to suspend Marquez for this crucial match against Portland Timbers, and by doing so was forced to alter the defensive back four; in place of Marquez and injured Chris Albright, he chose to play Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes. Ream and Solli would comprise the other half of the back four, while Rost was in charge of guarding the net. The midfield saw the regulars; Richards, Mccarty, Tainio and Lindpere, while the striking duo of Rodgers and Henry would once again be granted a chance to lead NY to a much needed victory.
From the minute the Red Bulls stepped onto the pitch, one could tell that they were hungrier than ever for a win, and even the crowd was louder than they had been in months. The game was filled with opportunities from the minute the whistle blew, but RBNY stepped up to the plate with Rost, undoubtedly having one of his best matches with the squad since arrival, making all the right moves to ensure that Portland would not find the net. The defensive four looked stronger, and communicational lines were utilized as there were almost no flaws during this match. Stephen Keel stepping up his game to ensure there would be no gaffs in this match.
Fans would only have to wait 21 minutes to see a breathtaking goal by Dane Richards, who managed to break away and score an unassisted goal to put RBNY up by a goal. It would be his 6th of the season. Historically, RBNY is known to win games whenever they score first, and as Backe stated postgame; “I was happy to see that goal.”
Lindpere, Solli and Henry would all try their hand at scoring goals with no luck, but as the halftime whistle blew, RBNY was up by a goal, and team moral was high. As the MSG cameras spotted Marquez in the suites, one could not help but wonder if his comments had forced the team to step up their game to let him know that they were able to win, with or without him.
As the second half started, RBNY Coach Backe and the fans alike knew that they were merely 45 minutes away from a crucial victory, as the MLS regular season draws to a close, and as the Portland Timbers were reduced to ten men in the 64th minute, following a red card to Alhassan for a handball, RBNY was granted a penalty kick. This would be taken by Luke Rodgers, and in the 66th RBNY found themselves up by two goals.
As the final whistle blew, a cloud of relief would settle over “the boys in white”. This victory would show everyone that RBNY was not ready to give up the fight.
Postgame, Backe was content that the team had shown such heart during the game, and praised Keel’s performance, however he admitted that the midfield needed to be cleaned up, and perhaps moving Marquez to midfield in the next game.
All players were reluctant to discuss the Marquez incident, with Ream, Auvray and Keel stating that things get said in the heat of the moment, and that it is all in the past. Agudelo defended Ream, who plays alongside him on both the national and club level, stating that “Ream knows how to handle it”.
Furthermore, Agudelo defended the way Ream has performed over the season, saying that all defenders are bound to make mistakes but that Ream had been a consistent defender all season.
RBNY is set to face Toronto on Saturday, as they try to clinch a wild card spot as the race tightens for those final slots. I guess there is some truth to the statements made by one of my readers last week, “In MLS, it aint over, till it’s over.”
For post-game interviews and comments from Backe, Ream, Agudelo, Keel and Mccarty – check out this link.
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