Red Bulls Rant: 4-1 Loss to Vancouver

As an avid soccer fan (and supporter of Major League Soccer), I’ll occasionally take some time to discuss games that I just watched.  Considering that I’m a New York Red Bulls fan, these will typically be about the “NYC” team.

So it’s the morning after the Red Bulls just got trounced in the opening game of the 2014 season.  A few things have been running through my head about the performance of the team, specifically:

The Good

There really wasn’t much good about this game, Vancouver clearly was the better team.  With that said, there were a few bright spots for the Bulls:

  • Dax McCarty – In the past I’ve been overly critical of Dax.  Something about him just rubs me the wrong way.  But last night he was everywhere, linking between the defense and the limited attack that we had.  It seemed that every time you turned around he either had the ball at his feet or he was getting himself in a position to be an outlet for one of his teammates.
  • The player known only as Armando – The defense had a rough night.  This was the first time that any of the back four played together, and it showed.  The lone bright spot was the newly acquired Spaniard.  He tracked back well, was confident on the ball, and was the one the rest of the four looked for to distribute out of the back.  There were times he seemed to be frustrated by the lack of options in front of him, and considering how the rest of the team played I would be too.  Once Olave decides that the field isn’t too hard for him to play on, these two are going to make a formidable center back pairing.  REALLY looking forward to seeing how these two work together.
  • Lloyd Sam – The speedy left winger was dangerous any time he got the ball, but that wasn’t the part that impressed me the most.  When the Bulls were down in the closing minutes of the game the entire team looked like they were ready to roll over and succumb to the inevitable.  Not Sam.  He never quit, causing fits for Vancouver’s back line, assisting on the Red Bulls lone goal and almost scoring another himself in stoppage time.  You could see his energy and enthusiasm give the rest of the team a burst that was otherwise lacking throughout the evening.
  • Johnny Steele – Best name ever.  Much like Sam, he played well and showed composure on the ball until he was inexplicably subbed out for Roy Miller (more on that below).

The Blah

There were a few players that were put in situations that were beyond their control and were unable to make the best of it.  Namely:

  • Tim Cahill – He’s not the target forward that he was playing as last night.  There were spurts throughout this game where you couldn’t even tell he was on the field because he was playing so high that he wasn’t receiving the ball.  Towards the end of the game he started dropping further and further back just to touch the ball, which left the Bulls without a target up top.  He would have been better positioned as the “false number 9” behind a player like Bradly Wright-Phillips, linking up with McCarthy in the midfield to conduct the offense moving forward.
  • Peguy Luyindula – He was paired up with Cahill at the top, and often found himself dropping in the “false number 9” position that Cahill should have been occupying.  When he got the ball and was facing the goal he showed creative bursts and seemed to distribute well.  But too often he was facing his own goal and was unable to turn thanks to Vancouver’s pressure.  I still say his ideal position is as an attacking midfielder, where he and McCarthy can orchestrate the linking from defense to offense.
  • Richard Eckersley, Bobby Convey, Luis Robles – I hope better things are to come from this group.  I’m placing part of the blame for their performance on the defense not having time to “gel” yet.

The Bad

There was a lot that just wasn’t good about last night.  These are the lowlights:

  • Ibrahim Sekagya – He should not be in MLS.  Every time he got the ball I cringed, and I think he did too.  He seemed anxious and didn’t want to be the one to lead the charge from the back.  Most of the time he just blasted the ball up field or out of bounds.  You know who else does that?  6 year olds.
  • Roy Miller – Why is he still on this team?  He was subbed in and immediately showed an air of cockiness, often trying to take on players and immediately losing the ball, or making other poor decisions (like heading the ball our of bounds for a Vancouver corner rather than ATTEMPTING to force the throw in).  No idea why the Red Bulls keep him around.  Maybe he has some dirt on the front office.
  • Eric Alexander – In fairness, he should probably be in the “Blah” category, but I can count on one hand the number of times I realized he had the ball.  Dax was doing all the heavy lifting in the midfield, and Eric was often lost further up field.
  • Coach Mike Petke – I like Mike Petke, but this was not a good outing for him or this team.  His lineup decisions were questionable from the start, and his substitutions were downright maddening.  It seemed like he had no plan and was trying to just throw random players on the field to see if they’d make a difference.  Loosing Henry and Olave for this game didn’t help, but that doesn’t mean that the entire lineup had to suffer.  Starting McCarthy and Luyindula in central midfield and Cahill and Wright-Phillips up top from the start could have produced a much more organized and sustained attack.  And while he did have a Red Bull prior to the game (nice shot TSN), he seemed to spend the rest of match sitting on the bench, laughing with his staff, rather than being on his feet commanding his troops.  The lack of enthusiasm seemed to hang like a cloud over the rest of team.  Not good.

With all this said, it was just the first game of the season, and I’m predicting much better for the Red Bulls as time goes on.  But it was also THE FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON, so I was hoping for more energy and enthusiasm from an otherwise listless team.  If they play like this much longer they’re going to get run over by teams like Portland, LA, Seattle, …