When the New York Red Bulls arrived in California last week, they had to be thinking that a good week just might be in store for them. They were facing a Chivas USA team that beaten recently, they were going to face a USL-2 team in the U.S. Open Cup, and then they were going to play a struggling Colorado Rapids team on the 4th of July.
A bad tie and two miserable losses later and the Red Bulls are wearing roller skates on the hill of a lost season. It is almost easy to forget that, despite Friday’s 4-0 loss to Colorado the Red Bulls are 5-5-5, not a losing record. There just hasn’t been much evidence to suggest that a turnaround is coming.
You might have said the same thing about the Rapids before Friday, before the dangerous offense from earlier in the season showed up. The Rapids tend to put on a good show on July 4th (and not just the fireworks display) and Friday’s performance was one of their best. Good enough, in fact, to make you think they just might salvage this season after all.
SBI correspondents Craig de Aragon and Andrew Keh took in the action and gave us their takes on the match:
Where has this Rapids team been?
By CRAIG de ARAGON
Infuriatingly happy. Don’t think about it too much. I don’t think that’s a real phrase. In fact, I’m pretty sure I just made it up. That was the first thing that came into my mind when the fourth goal went into the net as the Rapids grounded the wingless Red Bulls 4-1 on Friday night. Watching the Rapids recapture their scoring touch left me void of the right words to encapsulate my emotions. As soon as Omar Cummings slid free from the last defender on his way to score that goal, the words popped right into my head; infuriatingly happy.
Well what exactly does infuriatingly happy mean? For Rapids fans it expresses the complex emotional battleground that supporting the leagues most inconsistent team provides. Every week exposes a new side to a team that has yet to face itself in the mirror and find its identity. What is this team? Are the Rapids the team that rode the swift current past Los Angeles and New York to four goal victories, or are they the team that was as lifeless as an inner-tuber floating down a meandering stream like they were against San Jose and Houston (Second Time)?
It’s infuriatingly happy because on occasion, and unpredictably, the team shows that they can score goals, they have athleticism, they have speed, they have depth; they have all the elements of a championship caliber team and happily our expectations and hopes are inflated. But still remembering the complete body of work up to this point, it becomes infuriating that you’ve sat through months of ineptitude knowing that this kind of performance was capable.
Ok, so you say “it was only against the Red Bulls, big deal.” True, New York isn’t instilling fear into the hearts of anyone now a day, but still, the Rapids made them look as bad as a USL-2 team. Oops, sorry, Crystal Palace USA already did that.
With Tom McManus running down every ball and Omar Cummings out running defenders every time he had the chance, the offense was in complete control the entire match. The defense shut down every challenge and the midfield, with surprising starter Mehdi Ballouchy, outplayed and outworked their eastern conference opponents. Not one Rapid had a bad game, which leaves us Rapids fans scratching our collective heads, wondering what team will show up this week.
William Shakespeare wrote “The course of true love never did run smooth.” But my Midsummer nights dream is that the Rapids would smoothly run through the rest of the season just like they ran over the Red Bulls.
Holiday distractions help cope with another ugly Red Bulls loss
By ANDREW KEH
I believe I was grabbing my fourth hot dog off the grill last Friday when my girlfriend started giving me that look we hard-eating men know so well. The "I’m not trying to ruin your bbq, okay, but are you serious? Didn’t you also just eat two cheeseburgers" look.
The great patriot that I am, I was fully committed to fulfilling that old American tradition of consuming as many calories as there are stars in the sky on the anniversary of our nation’s birth, so I shot her my patented I’m-gonna-run-extra-hard-at-my-pickup-game-this-Sunday-look and dressed the dog generously with mustard and sauerkraut.
Eating excessively, for a simple man like me, is one of life’s great diversions. The Red Bulls latest humiliation therefore could not have arrived on a better date. Matches on the Fourth of July ensured that soccer, were it to go badly, would not be the only amusement available to me on that day. So while the Red Bulls played like the kids from The Big Green—in the beginning of the movie, before they got good—at least I had Funyuns.
Here now are some snippets of the brief notes I took during the match (The Red Bulls didn’t make the effort to look like a pro soccer team, so I won’t make the effort to translate these perfunctory observations into intelligible prose):
McManus goal, 100% open
goal, Ballouchy, no defending there whatsoever
goal Clark, they aren’t trying very hard it seems
Cummings, this is a joke
The only reason I continued watching the game, to be honest, is because Juan Pablo Angel made his return from injury at halftime. Last season, the man immediately endeared himself to fans as he seemingly pulled goals out of thin air time and again to save the Red Bulls from sure defeat. Angel wasn’t going to save the team on Friday—Colorado’s got some of the thinnest air around—but if the Red Bulls make the playoffs this year it will once again be on his back.
The Red Bull’s only redeeming moment came very early on in the match—the sixth minute, in fact—when Dave van den Bergh stepped on Ugo Ihemelu’s shorts from behind, causing the Nigerian defender to slide out of bounds in just his spandex.
I’m not yet as indignant as some of the doom-sayers on Ives’ match-day post, who all but pronounced the squad dead and themselves divorced from the franchise forever. I have hope. In Major League Soccer—especially when you have Juan Pablo Angel on your side—there is always some hope.
But just how
poorly is a team playing when their best moment of the week is the accidental pantsing of an opposing player?