For the New York Red Bulls this second game on their 4-game away tour against the Seattle Sounders would prove to be the one that highlighted their biggest flaw; the question of set pieces, and the lack of defense in these instances.
Following their last game against the Portland Timbers, which certainly did not lack any element of excitement, and saw the Red Bulls fight their way back to equalize a game that would ultimately take yet another starting option away from the team; Thierry Henry, who received a questionable red card, put Coach Hans Backe in a compromising situation. No Henry and no Luke Rodgers, who is still nursing an ankle injury. With that being said, Backe decided to put Dwayne De Rosario and Dane Richards in the front, perhaps an unlikely pair, but with no other options it seemed logical.
Q West field held over 46,000 for this match, which is the largest crowd for a regular MLS season game since July of 2008, when RBNY hosted LA Galaxy. The crowd was not disappointed, and would not be silenced at any point during the match, which was both a physical fight and one that had its ups and downs.
The first goal would come off of a corner kick; one that found the boot of Erik Friberg in the 10th minute to the delight of the fans, and less than two minutes later, Osvaldo Alonso would find the second goal for the Sounders, making the challenge for RBNY that much harder. RBNY found themselves struggling both defensively as well as offensively, but their fighting spirit paid off in the 30th minute with a goal from Dane Richards.
At halftime, Seattle Sounders were still in the lead with a goal, yet the stats showed that RBNY had 56% possession. Naturally the question needs to be asked; if they have the ball, why can they not produce end results? Is the problem to be found in RBNY’s defensive lineup? With the likes of Stephen Keel, Carlos Mendes and Austin Da Luz left defending; they certainly showed poor skill last night, as the Sounders were almost consistently in the box. For many a Red Bull fan, this team seems unstoppable on paper, yet without five of the regular starters, the team seems to be ripping at the seams. Is this a reflection on RBNY’s bench?
It was merely a week ago, following the match against New England Revolution, that Hans Backe stated that there was ample time to work on defensive tactics, yet for any RBNY fan watching this game, nothing seems to have changed. Social networks a buzz with “Same Old Red Bulls, always losing.” How did a team that started so strong in the beginning of the season, seem to start falling apart just as swiftly?
The second half saw numerous yellow cards, but thankfully this time around, the ratio of fouls seemed more reasonable than the 25-5 as seen in the Portland Timbers match. The first of these given to Austin Da Luz in the 49th minute, followed by another to Riley, for an attack on Joel Lindpere; a free kick was granted to RBNY, yet there was not much conviction in De Rosario’s kick, and made it simple for Keller to stop the ball.
The 57th minute brought the much needed equalizer for RBNY; with a play started by Jan Gunnar Solli, and deflected off of Seattle Sounders own Zach Scott, to put the boys back in the game. RBNY found themselves struggling to keep Seattle away from the box, where goalkeeper Greg Sutton was playing a dangerous game; he wasn’t only playing a very physical game, but his tactics seemed to be more dangerous than need be; recklessly attacking players, running out of the box with no need and just not guarding the goal in the way that would seem appropriate. Many may argue that he played in this manner due to his defenders lacking in their job, but with recurring risky runs far out of his box there was not much one could expect.
The second half would be the” Roger Levesque Show”, finding the net in the 67th minute, and merely 11 minutes later he would find it again, this time due to Sutton misjudging the strength he used to clear the ball, and Levesque stole the ball away with great ease, and practically walked the ball into the net. With RBNY trailing by two goals, Backe decided to take Da Luz off, and bring on Rooney. Why he chose to not utilize Corey Hertzog is unclear, but for a team trailing on foreign grounds a striker would have been an adequate choice.
The last ten minutes of the game would leave the Red Bulls chasing two goals, to no avail. They had managed to equalize, and just as quickly they were right back where they started. It has become crystal clear that set pieces are the greatest challenge for RBNY, and one that needs an immediate remedy, or it will certainly be the nail in the coffin for the Red Bulls.
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