By MIKE NASTRI
A team that finishes dead last in Major League Soccer obviously has some glaring holes on both sides of the ball. The Red Bulls gave up 47 goals in just 30 games in 2009. But, in the first game of the 2010 Red Bull campaign, the team showed there is some improvement on the defensive line.
"Ream, Petke, Hall, Miller the way they defended was definitely our key to winning the game," said head coach Hans Backe.
The back four played confidently on the ball with minimal mistakes, those same mistakes that have plagued Red Bull teams of the past few seasons. Petke and Ream held Brian McBride, Patrick Nyarko, and Collins John in check throughout the match.
The Fire did look dangerous on a couple of occasions early on in the first half after some poor clearances by Bouna Coundoul, including a McBride bike that glanced off the post.
Coundoul settled in nicely after the first twenty minutes making eight saves. His highlight reel save on a Mike Banner free kick in the 62nd minute saved the win for the Red Bulls.
"He made two or three key saves, he's so so quick going right to left,' said Backe.
"Bouna had to come up with a couple of saves to keep us in the game," added Jeremy Hall. "But, as a whole, I thought we shut them down pretty good tonight."
Despite some pressure on long balls from the Fire in the second half, the Red Bulls were able to keep the shut out and the three points. The shut down defense stemmed from the back line, but it was a nine man effort to keep the Fire off the scoresheet.
"It was a block of eight for sure," said Mike Petke. "Tonight the midfielders did a great job helping us out."
Joel Lindpere and Sinisa Ubiparapovic were all over the center of the pitch, stifling any attempt to create out of the middle for Chicago. Lindpere was a bull constantly finding himself around the ball. Lindpere, the lone goal scorer for New York, was the ball winner the team has sorely needed in midfield.
"His work rate is phenomenal and he kept going for 90 minutes," said Backe.
While there were some obvious positives from the 1-0 win, it was an ugly victory. The team was hesitant in front of net rather than testing a young keeper in Andrew Dykstra. The most effective attacks came from the back when Hall or Roy Miller made overlapping runs, finding Kandji or Angel at the top of the 18. The creative style Hans hopes to play with the Red Bulls was not as present as he would have liked.
"I'm no so happy with our attacking game today and the passing game," he said. "We couldn't really hurt Chicago's back four."
Overall, it was a positive sign from the Red Bulls. They recorded a victory in their opener and the first MLS game in Red Bull Arena against a rival who caused them a lot of trouble the past few years. An exciting new era has begun for the Red Bulls, but the team still has some improvement to make itself a serious playoff contender.