Photo by ISIphotos.com
Juan Pablo Angel scored a pair of goals and Danny Cepero had the best debut a goalkeeper could possibly want, scoring a goal and helping the Red Bulls post a 3-1 victory on Saturday night.
Yes, that’s right, Cepero scored a goal. from 80 yards away. On a free kick from the other side of the field.
The clutch victory means the Red Bulls can secure a playoff berth with a victory against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Thursday night.
Facing a Columbus squad missing several starters who were rested by coach Sigi Schmid, the Red Bulls controlled the action for most of the 90 minutes, but looked in danger of falling short of the three points until Angel delivered his second goal of the night in the 76th minute. The lead expanded to 3-1 just seven minutes later when Cepero boomed a free kick from 81 yards away from the goal that took a hard bounce in the Crew penalty area before bouncing over a helpless Andy Gruenebaum.
The improbable goal made Cepero the first goalkeeper in MLS history to score a goal and cinched a victory the Red Bulls desperately needed.
With the exception of Columbus’ goal, a header off a Guillermo Barros Schelotto free kick that saw two Red Bulls lose their marks on Steven Lenhart’s goal, the Red Bulls played one of their best games of the season. The defense held firm, the midfield created chances, and the forward trio Angel, Kandji and Matt Mbuta.
Angel showed once again why he is widely considered the best striker in MLS, finishing off a pair of quality chances to give the Red Bulls the lead an push his goal tally to 13 on the season, with 11 coming after the all-star break.
While Angel was the stary, Cepero was the story. Aside from his surprising goal, Cepero also showed poise in the net, making a pair of quality saves and displaying quickness and confidence in his first career MLS match.
Newcomers Macoumba Kandji and Matt Mbuta also looked good playing as the wide forwards in a 4-3-3 that helped maximize Angel’s effectiveness. Kandji set up Angel’s first goal by forcing a turnover and laying off a perfect pass to Angel. Mbuta provided speed and energy on the right flank, while also showing an ability to create chances for himself.
The Red Bulls defense played well despite the absence of Jeff Parke. The foursome of Kevin Goldthwaite, Diego Jimenez, Andrew Boyens and Chris Leitch has played together three times and put together a third quality performance. After shutting out Houston and D.C. United, that back-line did well to limit the number of quality chances the Crew could find in the run of play.
Now the Red Bulls must turn their attention to Thursday night’s match at Toyota Park against the Chicago Fire. A win will clinch a playoff spot for the Red Bulls, who will need some help to qualify if it ties or loses. It remains unclear whether the Fire will do what the Crew did and rest key starters, but you have to believe that whoever plays for Chicago will be eager for the chance to eliminate the Red Bulls from playoff contention.
That said, you have to like the Red Bulls chances considering how they responded to this week’s distractions and adversity.
What did you think of Saturday night’s Red Bulls performance? Which players impressed you? Do you think the Red Bulls can do what it takes to reach the playoffs?
Share your thoughts below.