If a team ever needed a win, the New York Red Bulls needed one last week. Injuries, a lack of options on the roster and the completed transfer of Jozy Altidore had the Red Bulls heading into last Thursday’ match against red-hot Chivas USA desperate for a victory. It didn’t seem likely based the form of the two teams heading into the match, but that didn’t matter to the Red Bulls.
Juan Pablo Angel and Dane Richards combined for a goal and the Red Bulls defense delivered a strong performance to help the Red Bulls earn a 1-0 victory in a game Chivas USA dominated for stretches. It wasn’t the prettiest game for the Red Bulls, but they’ll take it after two rough losses.
SBI Correspondents Andrew Keh and John Sandate took in the action on Thursday and share their takes on the match with us:
Red Bulls secure a must-win as Angel plays the star again
By ANDREW KEH
“Could you switch that one to the basketball game?” a youngish man asked the bartender at Nevada Smith’s in Manhattan, while motioning to a television above the bar, the only one in the room still tuned to soccer.
“Someone’s watching it, I think,” the bartender said. “Don’t worry. It’ll be over soon.”
Nevada Smith’s had attracted a decent crowd that night—one that got bigger as the game progressed—but the NBA finals, not American pro-soccer, it seemed, was the main draw.
With most Red Bull fans at the stadium, and MLS Primetime not yet the must-see event it will one day inevitably become, that “someone” the bartender spoke of was probably me.
I was stuck in the East Village minutes before kickoff, with no chance of making it to the stadium in time, so I ducked into the bar with a falafel from Mamoun’s on St. Marks—a requisite stop before any visit to Nevada Smith’s—and watched the game from a stool in the back. By halftime, even I was wishing the game would end soon.
This was a must-win game for the team in my eyes, and I was disappointed to see the Red Bulls lifeless and moving without purpose in the first half. They gave up the ball easily, and the rare successful foray into the Chivas third always ended with a useless cross in the general vicinity of Juan Pablo Angel.
The Red Bulls had only Jon Conway to thank for still being tied at halftime, after he came off his line and made himself big to make a huge save on a Sasha Kljestan shot in stoppage time.
During the interval, as images of Kobe Bryant flashed around the bar, I found myself comparing Angel to the Lakers star. Last season, when Lamar Odom and Luke Walton were dropping passes and missing free throws, Kobe would give them a death stare that undoubtedly made their bowels tingle. That same stare, I thought, has hardly left Angel’s face this year.
I imagined Juan Pablo Angel the subject of his own amateur YouTube interview like Kobe was last summer.
Andrew Boyens? What the f—? Are you kidding me? Andrew Boyens? F—ing ship his a– out. Are you kidding me?
But in the second half came salvation. The Red Bulls’ passes were crisper, their possession steadier, and Dane Richards continued to look dangerous running down the right. Then, in the 75th minute, Richards beat his man and sent in a sweet cross to a wide-open and streaking Angel, who finished easily for the game-winner.
Angel jumped in the air, rocked the baby with Dave van den Bergh, and, for what seems like the first time this season, a smile crept onto his face.
In July, Jozy Altidore will leave the team to join Villarreal in Spain. We all knew this day would come.
Now, we can only hope that the fate of Angel and the Red Bulls can mirror that of Bryant and the Lakers. Namely, that the superstar sticks with his team and is rewarded by the improved play of the youngsters around him to eventually reach the league finals.
And, most importantly, that the league commissioner conspires with a boneheaded opposing general manager to gift the Red Bulls with the superstar playmaker they need.
Chivas USA can’t stay hot against Red Bulls
By JOHN SANDATE
Sometimes you can’t argue with the law of averages or the soccer gods. Last Thursday the New York Red Bulls survived a relentless offensive assault from Chivas USA and walked away with a hard-earned 1-0 result. Despite being hurt, Juan Pablo Angel scored on a nice cross in the 75th minute from Dane Richards and helped NYRB snap a 3-game losing streak. I’m not going to candy coat it, Chivas USA dominated the game, possession, and still lost. What does it mean? Nothing. RBNY looked dangerous whenever Dane Richards had the ball, but was neutralized each time from new left-back Pancho Mendoza. Watching them go after each other was entertaining, to say the least. Speaking of entertaining, I was hoping to see Jozy Altidore, but he was removed from the lineup. A $ 10 million transfer to Villarreal might do have had something to do with that.
I can’t give total praise Chivas USA, they lost. However, even a casual observer could notice that the Red Bulls were consistently outmatched and outplayed. The score sheet doesn’t always reflect the end result. The Red Bulls never gave up. They played steady and calm in the face of every Chivas attack. Sometimes guts and passion works better than just skill. Juan Carlos Osorio and the New York Red bulls chose not to risk getting Mr. Altidore hurt and this gamble paid off. I commend Richards for outlasting Mendoza who seemed to wither in the second half.
As far as positives, Chivas looked cohesive and sharp. Sacha Kljestan passed well, maybe too well (I’ll get to that later). Jim Curtin played excellent. Carey Talley looked like the smartest guy on the pitch. Brad Guzan looked fresh despite playing Europe. Pancho Mendoza looks more comfortable in the backfield. Overall, the Goats played well. The 3 points would have helped, but Western conference is wide open and weak. There is plenty of wok to do and plenty of time to get things working right.
Negatives? We lost. That’s all the negative worth mentioning. Ok, maybe not. I’m not sure what Justin Braun was thinking but any shot in the box has to be launched with authority. Ante Razov looked….well….old. He’s not to blame for this loss, but certainly he has played better in the past. Anthony Hamilton is the token speed guy on the roster. All speed and no skill. He looked winded and played ineffectively in the final minutes. That can’t be a good thing. Atiba Harris disappeared on the right side and was inconsistent on the attacks. Honestly, this team is capable of m
ore. The attack was good for the first 75 minutes. The last 15 were spent chasing John Wolyniec and Richards.
I won’t say the Angel goal was lucky, because it wasn’t. It was exactly the kind of play that Chivas USA makes and defends well against. Marking him should have been a priority for the Chivas USA backline, then again they were was playing against that Juan Pablo Angel. Great players always step up it up when opportunity knocks. Unfortunately for Chivas USA there are no great players, just good players who play great occasionally. Tonight, no one played great. It’s a good thing there were only 9,000 or so fans to see it, not including the few who watched on ESPN. Congrats to those fans (and some writers) who continually diss Chivas USA attendance figures and marketing efforts, you are now the pot calling the kettle black. Talk about weak fan bases. I hope nobody asks you to re-brand (again) or move to San Diego. LOL!
Time to enjoy the California sun. See you in Carson on June 28. Bring some sunblock.