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My take on the Red Bulls tie vs. New England


Two points lost. That is how most will see the Red Bulls’ 1-1 tie vs. New England on Saturday. The Red Bulls were up a man and up a goal and came away with just a point.

As justifiably disappointed as many Red Bulls fans were after this game, seeing Saturday night as a failure is a slight overreaction. Even if it was just a tie, outplaying one of the best teams in MLS is never a bad thing, and holding one of the league’s best attacks to one good scoring chance all game is also something a team in transition like the Red Bulls can use to build on.

Here are some of my observations from Saturday night’s match:

Chris Leitch deserves criticism for his foul on Adam Cristman followed by his disappearing act on the wall during Jeff Larentowicz’s goal, but anyone criticizing his play in a right wing role just wasn’t paying attention. No, he wasn’t much of a threat going forward but his task in this match was simple, limit Khano Smith’s impact in the game. Now, did anybody even notice Smith except for when he took part in the Revs’ goal celebration? Me neither, which tells me Leitch handled his assignment pretty well.

Kevin Goldthwaite is emerging into a defensive force. I called the trade of Todd Dunivant for Kevin Goldthwaite and cash one of the worst of 2007. I’m hear to say that if Goldthwaite keeps this up, Bruce Arena will wind up being vindicated on that one.

Claudio Reyna was the Red Bulls’ most influential midfielder in the first half. His ability to gain and hold possession was invaluable early on and it is no coincidence that the Red Bulls lost control of the midfield once Reyna hurt his knee and eventually had to be replaced.

The hate for Reyna is getting a bit ridiculous, as evidenced by the attempts by some to blame him for the equalizer. Yes, he turned the ball over midway into the other team’s attacking half, but the Revs went on to string three passes together before Chris Leitch fouled Adam Cristman to set up the vital free kick.

I wonder if the same people blaming Reyna for the Revs goal are crediting him for the Red Bulls goal, since he had more to do with Altidore’s goal than Larentowicz’s. And while we are at it, I wonder how many Revs fans are spending time blaming Shalrie Joseph for Altidore’s goal since it was, in fact, a Joseph turnover that eventually led to Altidore’s goal. Probably not many, because they realize the absurdity of trying to make that connection.

No, Reyna is not Cesc Fabregas or Ronaldinho or Juan Riquelme, but he can be an effective attacking midfielder once the Red Bulls have effective and healthy players at forward and both wing spots. When Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore are healthy, as well as Dane Richards, that is when we will see how much Reyna can truly do from that attacking midfielder role. Even then, the Red Bulls need someone who can partner with Stammler in central midfield to win balls and get passes to Reyna. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, the player they needed just went to Chicago.

Carlos Mendes made his first start of the season and while he avoided any monumental mistakes, he did show signs of the problems that concern the Red Bulls coaching staff. His lateral quickness, first touch and lack of sharp passing ability were not the best and it definitely looks like the transition to right back in a 3-5-2 is something he is struggling with. Mendes is still a servicable centerback in a four-man defense, but I still think Chris Leitch and eventually Hunter Freeman will be better options at right back.

Dave Van Den Bergh struggled all night to get his crosses on target and he just might start losing minutes to rookie Danleigh Borman, whose speed gives the Red Bulls a different element. If Borman can gets his crosses sharper, it might just be a matter of time before he sneaks into the starting lineup, though I’m still convinced that Dane Richards will eventually start on the left flank unless Van Den Bergh finds an extended run of good form like he found last year, or unless the Red Bulls find a way to sign Jorge Rojas this summer.

One stat to consider is the Revs’ total number of shots on goal: ONE. Yes, that’s right. Larentowicz’s free kick was New England’s only shot on goal. That isn’t bad at all by the Red Bulls defense against a Revs attack that had 31 shots on goal in its previous four games (That’s almost eight per game for those of the math wizards out there). Now you can point out the red card but the fact remains that the Red Bulls completely stifled the Revs attack in the first half. The Revs had control of the ball and put together some nice sequences in the first 15-20 minutes but never came close to scoring.

In other words, the Red Bulls defense played well. They set out to stifle Khano Smith and Mauricio Castro and did just that even before Castro’s red card. Even Sainey Nyassi couldn’t get going on the right flank despite a considerable speed advantage over Dave Van Den Bergh. I know it all sounds too much like a moral victory, but what it does mean is that the team defended well, and team defense is the club’s biggest concern, isn’t it? Attacking players such as Angel and Dane Richards are going to get healthy and the goals will come. The question is whether the defense will be good enough to do its part when that time comes. Saturday’s tie gave some reasons to believe the defense just might be good enough.

What did you think of Saturday night’s match? Share your thoughts below.


  1. khano smith is just about the worst player on the new england team. he’s the corollary of chris leitch on the red bulls.

    i’ve seen better skills, more confidence, and more concentration in almost any pickup game in new york. thankfully it’s the revs who have that sack of poop.

  2. Like many other who’ve posted here, I don’t think Reyna is horrible, just not playing in the correct system and not worth the DP status (to date). I hope he finds a way to make the players around him better. In comparing Reyna to the other DPs – Angel, Beckham, Blanco all have “produced” for their teams (in Becks case, the marketing impact deems his DP status worthy)…Lopez & Gallardo to early to tell.

    With Reyna, his impact has not translated into tangible results for his team (goals, assists, trophy, cup finals, boost in ticket sales/marketing, etc.). Hopefully, he can step up in what may be his final year.

  3. You can disagree with Ives all you want, but some of you seem to have an attacking overtone to your disagreements, which I think is ridiculous. You all read Ives’ blog for a reason…

    I never liked the idea of Reyna (or Arena for that matter) coming to the NYRB, and definitely DO NOT feel like he’s worth his salary or a DP slot. However, that’s the situation that we’re in, and it does no good to whine about it. Reyna is still a good player (whether I like him or not), and I would never take that away from him.

  4. Ives,

    I don’t know what game you were watching on Saturday night? Leitch was a disaster on the right for the Red Bulls. So many errant passes, crosses and he couldn’t even make the runs as balls were played into space for him. Even with all that, we would have won the game if he hadn’t been scared and turned his back to the ball, on Larentowitz’s free kick. I’m praying that Feeman comes back quick.

  5. A couple of thoughts:

    I thought Conway is culpable for the goal. Was he not supposed to be covereing the area of the goal the wall was not?

    I don’t want to be too negative but if you take away JPA, Jozy Altidore and Claudio Reyna,…the Red Bulls are the equivalent of an All-Star team from the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and not worth paying money to see play let alone travel to the Meadowlands to see play.

  6. Reyna is at his best in a role that doesn’t get much statistical recognition: controlling the midfield from deep, spraying passes to build an attack, and helping to break up opposition attacks. (Very much his role at Manchester City, and not a CAM role.)

    I think Reyna should consider retiring for the sake of the team. He cannot stay healthy anymore, and saddling a team with a DP contract (of that size) you can barely fulfill (due to injuries) seems selfish.

  7. The thing is, I actually think Reyna is, skill-wise, the best midfielder we have. But he’s being played out of position and because of his tendency to get hurt and his own skill set, he’s not the kind of player to build an MLS team around.

    It was his decision to take the money that Bruce Arena was willing to pay him, despite the fact that he didn’t earn it last yearm. His greed hurts our team. So yeah, I hold him far more accountable than other players for our failings.

    If his play were to start getting us results, I would be delighted to recognize his contribution. Until then… BOOO.

  8. Time for me to rest the Reyna issue but not before I say what I think.

    Reyna is a liability to the team. If the team developes around him and when he goes down injured, the team will have to readjust at the worst time. He is injury-prone and that happens at the worst possible time (that is just the way it is). If Ives thinks that is a good strategy for a team, that I call a risk. Might pay off but it is still a “risk”. It didn’t work last year. I don’t think it will work this year.

    Other people who don’t like to blog think that he slows down the counter attack. I agree but that is not my major “thing” against Reyna.

    But, be as it may, we will know come September… I hope it works out for us (RBNY) because I want to see play off games…. that is my last Reyna rant.

  9. As to my recollection of WC2002, um, clearly my facts are a little shaky. However, I clearly remember (to the point of remembering commenting to people I was watching with) that Claudio, and thus the team looked better when he was playing in a more forward, attacking role. However, the point I was trying to make is simply that he is not out of position as a CAM.

    And aside from that, my main point is that he played well on Sat night. Which he did.

    And, well, duh, he is no Eli. Every analogy breaks down eventually. I was just saying that until he flat-out lights up the pitch, New Yorkers are going to declare him (justly or unjustly) a bust. Which is their divine right as paying sports fans.

  10. Surely all Red Bull needs to do is add Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi to REALLY bring out the best in Reyna.

    Reyna could drive a Toyota Camry into a brick wall and the problem would be that he didn’t have a Lexus to drive in the first place.

    It’s not Reyna’s fault, it will never be Reyna’s fault. We get it Ives.

    Complete waste of a DP slot. At least Dallas gave themselves an out with an option on Denilson. We, on the other hand, are saddled with a vastly overpaid, thoroughly average MLS midfielder.

  11. I was very impressed with Borman’s play against the Revs, especially compared with his performance against FCD last week. Reyna is a very skilled and steady presence in the center of the field, and he always will be. Once NY gets Angel and Richards back healthy they will improve tremendously. And as for the New England attack: even with Twellman and Ralston it is mediocre. The Revs do not impress me.

  12. I agree that the goal was Conway’s fault. He lined up the wall and had only about 3 feet to the post to defend, and still let it get by him. Worse, he was leaning right (where the wall was defending) when the ball was about to be struck, which is why he couldn;t reach the ball.

  13. “I know it was a long time ago, but during WC2002, the US played their best soccer with Reyna in that role. And against Poland, he played withheld.”

    Portugal: Claudio did not play. 3-2 win.

    Mexico: Claudio playing right side midfield (fairly deep). 2-0 win.

    Those were the best results the US had. But I guess to Reyna’s fan club, results don’t matter, it’s the little things.

    Reyna played a very good game playing side-by-side with O’Brien against Germany, but they both played as two-way midfielders, switching back and forth. Reyna had a beautiful defense-splitting pass against Germany from the central mid position, but that was the most attacking he got as a center mid in the competition.

    How is it that Reyna’s critics get knocked for lacking understanding of the game, yet his most adamant defenders don’t actually seem to know what he actually ever did?

    As for Eli: I went to Ole Miss. I know how good he is. Claudio is no Eli.


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