Blowouts are nothing new in the Red Bulls-D.C. United rivalry. In fact, they are practically a tradition. What isn’t part of that tradition is the team from New Jersey being the one doing the smacking around.
The roles were reversed on Sunday, with the Red Bulls responding to a D.C. goal with four unanswered goals on their way to a 4-1 drubbing of D.C. at Giants Stadium. It was a victory as completely dominant as it was utterly surprising.
While D.C. can point to player absences ahead of a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against New England (which D.C. won), there was still no denying that the new-look Red Bulls played a great game and showed more in that 90 minutes than they had all season.
SBI correspondents Andrew Keh and Joel Sanderson took in the action and gave us their takes on the match.
Rain stays away but Red Bulls show up in a big way
By ANDREW KEH
The threat of severe thunderstorms dominated the weather forecasts Sunday morning and thus put a great damper on my expectations for the afternoon.
Strangely, I am notorious among those that know me well for what they have decided is an unreasonable aversion to the rain and cold. Perhaps I haven’t made a good enough effort through the years to hide my over-the-top shivering spells and outbursts of discontent under any sort of precipitation while incorrectly assuming that others were sharing in my great misery.
As it happens, I am also a noted opponent of anything DC United. But with things the way they are in the crazed universe that is New York Red Bull fandom, I was not any more enthused about the match itself than I was the impending rain. Weeks of optimism (“anything can happen in MLS!”) had only led to more dumbfounding disappointments, and I braced for the worst.
At the risk of ruining my street cred with a petty metaphor so early in a column, one could say there were two storms brewing that afternoon. But then, like a gift from the heavens, neither of them materialized.
First, the rain largely held off. Before the game, I stood around a grill with some friends, in a hooded raincoat. I kept an umbrella nearby. Next to us, a family huddled under a hastily erected tent. But it eventually became clear that the worst of the rain would not arrive at all, and soon both parties were kicking around on an impromptu soccer field.
It was the same way in the match, which began with an early threat that never came to fruition when Kevin Goldthwaite botched a clearing header in the 16th minute, allowing DC to collect the ball and waltz it toward the box and into the net.
But to everyone’s surprise, the Red Bulls responded with great determination.
Leading the way was a turbo-charged Juan Pablo Angel. Starved of service all season long, he took the initiative and curled in a beauty of a free kick to tie the match. He ran ceaselessly and effectively, constantly beating his opponents to 50-50 balls and surging into dangerous space. One of the great sights in MLS is watching Angel gather himself before attacking a ball in the air. He’ll bang bodies with anyone to contest a header, and on Sunday, he won most of those battles.
It was Angel, after all, that provided the pressure in the DC box, allowing Mike Magee to spring onto a loose ball for the go-ahead goal. He did not let at any point in the match, finding shot after shot, and ultimately earning his a second goal later in the game on a skillful flick.
For one match, everything seemed to work. Dave van den Bergh was effective on the left side, with much of the Red Bulls attack predicated on his ability to free up space to send a cross into the box. With few of the physical gifts treasured in wing-play—like blazing speed and dribbling ability—van den Bergh has found a way to become one of the focal points in the Red Bulls offense.
And the “new signings” all seemed to click, as well. For now, Jorge Rojas seems to still be working his way toward a true understanding with his teammates. He favors a floating role, one that allows him to drift where the play dictates, but he still appears to be finding out the most efficient routes, relative to his teammates, into these dangerous areas. The early signs however—three assists in three games—are hopeful.
Juan Pietravallo and Gabriel Cichero, meanwhile, were indispensable in the match. In a rivalry that always requires bite, they provided fangs. Pietravallo is distinguishing himself as that guy you hate to line up against, but love having on your side, the terrier that is constantly, and maddening, nipping at your heels, not understanding the word “no.” Cichero was similarly tough, throwing his body into challenges and showing a good mixture of skill on the ball and rugged play.
Winning 4-1 over DC is always a reason to celebrate, but most importantly, the victory provided a needed lifeline in what was becoming an increasingly desperate playoff chase. The question now is whether or not the squad can coalesce in time to make a run in this final stretch.
And credit to the DC fans, as always, for making the trip up to Giants Stadium. Bitter rivals as these teams may be, anyone with an interest in the well being of American soccer should recognize the importance of this kind of support.
But also: You’re not singing anymore…
D.C. delivers a rare stinker against the Red Bulls
By JOEL SANDERSON
What a game!
Nope. It was a sad excuse for a game. The Red Bulls managed to dominate the scoring in a game where both teams looked like they deserved to miss the playoffs.
The amazing thing about the game is how the Red Bulls courageously overcame the refereeing and the fact that God was rooting for DCU. That’s right. Those DC Scum had the Lord himself rooting and the Red Bulls overcame the odds to still look like a poor team defeating a poorer team.
This was arguably DCU’s worst game this year. Sure, they played some atrocious football earlier in the season, but good gracious. Save the five minutes before and after Jaime Moreno’s goal, the quality of play was SEVYSA level. No offense to SEVYSA, but these are supposed to be professional soccer players. I spent the game wondering if the DCU players’ dad would be angry enough after the game that the players wouldn’t get juice boxes.
“Just get in the van, Zach. No, we can’t go by McDonalds. You can make something when you get home.”
The parents of the Red Bulls probably had a different take. I’m sure they told little Juan Pablo that they were really proud of him. And they were. Any win is a good win, even a sloppy one. So I would like congratulate the Red Bulls on saving their season temporarily. I hope they don’t expect to beat other teams with that quality of play though. Angel had a great game. If there were other talented players on the field, this team would be good. They’re like a poor man’s Galaxy. (wicked burn!)
What made the game extra frustrating to watch was… okay everything. Everything made the game difficult to watch. From the initial kick-off, both teams were struggling to put together accurate passes that allowed any flow whatsoever.
The Red Bulls out-hustled DCU all game. That was one of the big problems three months ago and it’s back. Whether the Red Bulls played well or not, they destroyed The DC Scum in one of the most important aspects of the game.
The Red Bulls got shot after shots (and goals!) from just launching the ball fifty yards in the general direction of the DC goal and actually getting to it. That should happen, at most, once a game. Instead it was like watching Carlos Mencia make his one joke over and over again for 90 minutes. It isn’t funny the first time and by the end it’s just depressing.
Burch made a stupid play. McTavish had one of his worst games of the season. Moreno left. Gallardo is hurt. Fred can’t handle the creativity on his own and is unaware of that he should at least stand in front of opponents heading toward his goal. And Wells. I’ve been looking for phrase to adequately describe his play. I have none.
He wasn’t bad one year ago, but he had a good defense in front of him. Now that he’s having to make plays he looks like I do as a goalie. I try hard, but I just get beat. He made one great save…that he never should have been there to make in the first place. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that he was a 80-year-old man driving down the interstate. He doesn’t know where he’s going, he’s not entirely sure what he’s doing there. He reacts to the movements of those around him like he’s off his medication.
“Whoa! I should punch that ball! Should I get back up? My hip hurts. Where am I? They just scored? I punched the ball right? Right? Maybe that was last half. Where’s my Glenda? Oh, that’s right. She’s dead.”
Crazy old man.