Red Bulls defeat Union to secure first win of the season

By Samindra Kunti – “Are you kidding me?” shouted Red Bulls coach Mike Petke on the touchline after a harsh foul on Peguy Luyindula went unpunished in the early minutes of the New York vs. Philadelphia game.

Petke was agitated and that would not change during the first half. His team dominated much of it, but lacked confidence in the final third.  An industrious Dax McCarthy demonstrated a lot of forward intent, but his incisive play was not matched by his teammates.

The Red Bulls threatened on the right wing at times. Kimura tried to overlap.  Bradley Wright-Philipps got a sight of goal twice, but proved to be clumsy. For much though, the Red Bulls played rather uninspiringly. They struggled with the pace of Christian Maidana.

Petke was not happy with his troops at the interval. He told them their performance was simply not good enough. They needed to step it up.

New York poured on the pressure in the second half and that culminated in a goal in the 57th minute: Roy Miller combined with Eric Alexander on the left flank, and the left-back picked out Thierry Henry wide open inside the box. The French captain didn’t hesitate and comfortably beat Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. 

The hosts doubled their lead ten minutes later when Alexander proved to be provider again. Lloyd Sam powered his cross past a helpless Zac MacMatch.

But the visitors were given a lifeline when Ibrahim Sekagya got sent off for intentionally handling the ball inside the penalty area. Sebastian LeToux converted from the spot.

The Red Bulls, however, held on to secure their first victory of the season. "We just got to believe in ourselves," said midfielder Tim Cahill, who entered in the second half for his first appearance in three matches since injuring his hamstring in the first half against Chivas USA on March 30. "We found our feet today. We found three points. This is the beginning of our season."

UNCONVINCING RED BULLS TIE WITH COLORADO

UNCONVINCING RED BULLS TIE WITH COLORADO

Soccer fans always look forward to the home opener of the season.  They get twitchy in the off- season; They need soccer to sustain themselves. By the time the home opener arrives, they crave the game.

On Saturday afternoon,  New York fans welcomed back soccer as the Red Bulls took on the Colorado Rapids at Red Bull Arena in Harrison. Blue skies and mild temperatures provided an excellent setting for an afternoon of soccer in the Big Apple.

The fans in the South Ward attempted to make the game a fest. They sang and danced throughout the game, but they had been warned that the Red Bulls might not whizz their way past the Rapids. Last week Mike Petke’s team slumped to a 4-1 defeat away to Vancouver.

Petke took the blame for the humiliation. His game plan of pairing Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula up front completely backfired. His defense was also not without fault. This time Petke went for the orthodox partnership of Thierry Henry, returning from injury, and Bradley Wright-Philipps.

The Red Bulls applied pressure early on; Cahill failed to convert a free header from Henry’s cross. Lloyd Sam’s  pace opened up space on the right, but few crosses turned into real danger.  Gradually the Rapids restored the balance. Deshorn Brown unsettled Armando and Jamison Olave at the heart of the Red Bulls’ defence. Robbles, like so often, produced three excellent saves to keep a clean sheet.

New York stormed out of the locker room and again Cahill had a free header. This time, the ball just sailed over the bar. But it was all a bit lacklustre by the Red Bulls – laborious, but without real direction. Armando and Olave didn’t click, and looked fragile. In the final third the Red Bulls were often at a loss.

In the 57th minute, the captain delivered. Lloyd Sam sent in a delicate cross from the right, Cahill drew two defenders and Henry’s diving header left John Berner, the visiting goalkeeper, with no chance.

But clumsy defending cost the Red Bulls. Olave bumped Vicente Sanchez. The referee pointed, somewhat controversially, to the spot and Sanchez cooly converted the spot-kick to the bottom right corner. The Red Bulls were deflated and only regained their composure in the dying minutes. They heaped on the pressure, but there was to be no grandstand finale, common currency last season.

During midweek, Petke indicated that the loss against Vancouver had been analysed – that all the t’s had been crossed  and the i’s dotted. Not so by Saturday’s evidence. If Petke wants to send the fans home happy, he’ ll have to go back to the drawing board.

DRAMATIC CAHILL EQUALIZER EARNS RED BULLS PLAYOFF SPOT

Samindra Kunti – The New York Red Bulls clinched their birth in the MLS postseason after a dramatic tie at home to New England Revolution. Fabian Espindola put the Red Bulls ahead after fourteen minutes, but goals from Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez turned the game upside down in the second half before Tim Cahill snatched a injury time equaliser. The Red Bulls are now on a streak of six unbeaten games.

After a superb performance by the Red Bulls away to the Seattle Sounders last week, rookie coach Mike Petke nonetheless urged for caution in the run-up to the game against the New England Revolution. "I expect a very difficult game, obviously looking for that playoff spot – the last playoff spot. They are a dangerous team. They have their punch to go forward…” he said.

Petke´s worries proved to be unfounded in the first half as the Red Bulls dominated proceedings. Thierry Henry opened hostilities after a mere two minutes when his audacious looping header nearly took Revolution´s goalkeeper Matt Reis by surprise.

Fourteen minutes into the game, Espindola gave the hosts the lead when he intercepted a nonchalant pass from Scott Caldwell and slotted it home from just outside the box. It was a fine finish from Espindola, his ninth of the season putting him on par with Henry and Cahill. He should have made it two in the 24th minute, but failed to convert Henry´s floating cross from the right.

By now the visitors were struggling: Revolution´s midfield proved lightweight as prodigy Fagundez was neutralised. Stoke-bound Juan Agudelo operated in isolation up front with the Red Bulls holding a decent shape defensively. Without support, Agudelo´s hold up play was futile. The visible disorder pervading Jay Heaps´ team was in stark contrast with the all round energy the Red Bulls demonstrated.

For all their slick movement and passing, the Red Bulls were only one up at the break. The Revolution in fact had more shots on target, two to one, during the first half. The Red Bulls have clearly developed a bad habit of contentment when in a slender lead and a position to do seal the game with another goal. It was no different against the Revolution.

And Petke´s XI almost paid for their complacency. Henry´s curling shot from the edge of the box was denied by a Reis´ flying save and Andrew Farell´s intervention neutralised Lloyd Sam's point blank shot inside the box, but at the other end the Revolution showed more urgency, trying to pin back the Red Bulls into their own half.

Last week Petke lauded Luis Robbles for producing an outstanding, if not match-winning, save every game and Robbles did almost that with another fine save to deny Saer Sene from a few yards out after 62 minutes. Robbles´ quick reflexes lifted the ball over the crossbar. Heaps switched to three at the back with fourteen minutes left when he sacrificed his captain A.J. Soares for Dimitry Imbongo.

The visitors pegged the Red Bulls after 85 minutes when referee Fotis Bazakos awarded the Revolution a penalty for a questionable hand ball by Jamison Olave in the penalty area. Lee Nguyen converted from the penalty spot.

Then Andrew Dorman got sent off for studs-up, enabling the hosts to launch an all out siege in search of a winner. But a turnover deep into Red Bulls territory allowed Diego Fagundez to pounce and steer the ball past a powerless Robbles. Inside the space of six minutes, the Revolution had turned the game on its head.

Only for Tim Cahill to emerge as the Red Bulls’ saviour in the seventh minute of injury time: Reis pushed Jonathan Steel’s free kick out of the danger zone: Tim Cahill backed off, positioned himself near the penalty and headed the loose ball with precision over the pack of players and Reis into the net.

Cahill proved that he was is the lynchpin of this Red Bulls side: the dynamo in midfield, he is multifaceted player with the lungs of a horse. Luis Robbles acknowledged the importance of Cahill after the game. “He embodies everything this team wants to be, from the character to just the hard work and he has had an incredible season,” he said.

The Red Bulls earned their way to the postseason the hard way against Revolution and with two remaining games in the regular season – away to Houston and at home against Chicago – the aim is to try and win the Supporters Shield, which goes to the number one team overall in the regular season.
New York Red Bulls 2, New England Revolution 2
October 5, 2013 – Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
MLS Regular Season
Scoring Summary:
NY: Fabian Espindola 9 (unassisted) 14’
NE: Lee Nguyen 4 (penalty kick) 85’
NE: Diego Fagundez 12 (unassisted) 91’+
NY: Tim Cahill 10 (unassisted) 97’+
New York Red Bulls (15-9-8, 53 points) – Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura (Andre Akpan 91’+), Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson, David Carney, Lloyd Sam (Eric Alexander 71’), Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Jonny Steele, Fabian Espindola (Peguy Luyindula 78’), Thierry Henry.
New England Revolution (11-11-9, 42 points) – Matt Reis, Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares (Dimitry Imbongo 76’), Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney, Scott Caldwell (Andy Dorman 56’), Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Saer Sene, Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo (Jerry Bengtson 79’).
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Attendance: 25,219 (sellout)

RED BULLS TOP OF THE TABLE AFTER NARROW WIN OVER FC DALLAS

Samindra Kunti – Thierry Henry struck a pose again last week against Toronto FC – leaning against the stanchion, head casually held down and a hand on hip, implying “You have seen me score before” – and with it started an online trend. Twitter exploded with Photoshopped variants under the hashtag #Henrying. Muhammad Ali, Star Wars, E.T., Games of Thrones and the inevitable Miley Cyrus were all thrown into the mix.

Henry seemed amused by all the #Henrying. “It’s kind of funny at the end of the day. There is nothing behind the celebration. I needed a rest . I stopped there, saw the post in Houston; saw the post the other day, was basically by it, so I stopped by it.” the New York Red Bulls´ captain said Friday after practice.

The pleasant online folly reflects the upbeat spirit permeating the Red Bulls camp at the moment. Sitting top of the Eastern Conference and on a three game winning streak, the Red Bulls have put the days of a mid-season slump and Mike Petke´s altercation with Henry behind them. Petke, intent on attacking football at the start of the season with a 4-3-3, has switched his formation to a pragmatic `get a result´- 4-4-2 and the Red Bulls have been reaping the benefits in recent weeks.

But a result against FC Dallas long seemed in doubt. At half-time the Red Bulls had not managed a single attempt on target. Carney curled a free kick, earned by Cahill, just wide and a goal-line scramble nearly had FC Dallas´s George John score a comical own goal, only for the woodwork to save John´s face. Henry skewed his shot in front of the goalmouth when teed up by Fabian Espindola.

Those were rare highlights from a half in which the Red Bulls exerted mere sterile pressure on FC Dallas´s rearguard. There was no consorted effort from Petke´s men to impose themselves: with Bradley-Wright Phillips hobbling off injured with a strained right hamstring after twenty-six minutes, the Red Bulls missed any sense of direction and purpose. There was a distinct lack of guile and offensive dynamics in the final third of the field.

It was telling that Jamison Olave stood out – for his defensive interventions in the first half. Petke acknowledged the importance of his number four after the game. “Olave has had a rejuvenation in his career. His defensive play this year has been amazing. If you want to teach a youth player how to defend one on one, you show him Olave.” said Petke.

Petke also had praise for his goalkeeper Luis Robles, who ensured the Red Bulls earned a tenth shutout this season. Robles produced a crucial one-handed save at the stroke of half-time when Fabian Castillo was left in space inside the box. “You expect a goalkeeper to come up with one huge save a game. A game changing save and Robles has done that, if not more than that.” commented Petke.

The second half was a more open -ended affair. Henry came agonizingly close to breaking the deadline, but his header, meeting Espindola´s cross from the right, sailed inches wide. Dax McCarty´s and Tim Cahill´s unwearying labour in the midfield ensured the Red Bulls dominated the better part of the second half as FC Dallas started to tire.

With the clock ticking down, Petke became visibly more nervous on the touchline. He urged his troops to push forward with wild gesticulations. The Red Bulls didn´t have their opponents in a stranglehold, but did tighten their grip on the game. It was Erick from FC Dallas, who provided relief for the hosts when he slid and steered Jonathan Steele´s cross into the back of his own net with fourteen minutes left. Eric Alexander should have put the game to bed two minutes later: face to face with FC Dallas´goalkeeper Raul Fernandez, Alexander opened his hips too soon enabling Fernandez to correctly guess the curve of the ball.

The Red Bulls continue to sit at the top of the Eastern Conference with a three-point lead over Sporting Kansas City. Petke and co travel to CenturyLink Field next week to take on Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders.

Match details:

New York Red Bulls 1, FC Dallas 0
September 22, 2013 – Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
MLS Regular Season

Scoring Summary:
NY: Erick (own goal) 76’

New York Red Bulls (15-9-6, 51 points) – Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura, Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson, David Carney, Eric Alexander (Brandon Barklage 84’), Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Jonny Steele, Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Fabian Espindola 32’)

FC Dallas (10-9-10, 40 points) – Raul Fernandez, Matt Hedges, Kellyn Acosta, Jair Benitez (Michel 88’), George John, Andrew Jacobson, Jackson (Mauro Diaz 65’), Fabian Castillo, David Ferreira, Erick (Kenny Cooper 82’), Blas Perez

Referee: Matthew Foerster
Attendance: 18,976