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There is plenty of blame to go around for the Red Bulls’ embarrassing 5-2 loss to Chicago on Thursday night. It’s almost tougher finding those who weren’t to blame than those who were.
Any list of blame for Thursday’s debacle begins with Red Bulls head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who made the mistake of choosing a lineup that came up as small as you could imagine in such an important game. Make no mistake, players such as Gabriel Cichero, Juan Pietravallo and Jorge Rojas failed miserably, but Osorio must ultimately shoulder the blame for choosing them.
Osorio didn’t come by choosing his lineup easily. He spent countless hours trying to come up with a lineup that could deliver a result that could help the Red Bulls reach the playoffs. A win or a tie was enough. He ultimately settled on a handful of players that left him open to criticism before the first ball was kicked on Thursday.
Osorio must feel like a cruel trick was played on him on Thursday, when he saw his three South American signings stink up the place and show little of the quality that made them look like such promising acquisitions just two months ago. Early on you could see Rojas’ skill, Petriavallo’s toughness and quality, and Cichero’s ability and confidence.
Slowly but sure all three players morphed into unreliable players whose flaws have laid ruin to Osorio’s best-laid plans for this season. Thursday offered the clearest evidence to indict all three players. Cichero was the most disappointing of the three, looking like the unsure and mistake-prone centerback who looked tragically bad in the team’s losses to Colorado and Real Salt Lake.
Osorio could have stuck with Andrew Boyens and Diego Jimenez at center back, but ultimately decided that it was riskier to play Jimenez, who was nursing a knee injury, than Cichero, who reportedly played a solid game for Venezuela in a World Cup qualifying win against Ecuador. That match turned out to be fool’s gold for Osorio, who must have wanted to tear his hair out as he watched Cichero make mistake after mistake.
it should be noted that the drug suspension of veteran defender Jeff Parke severely cut down Osorio’s options, but it is tough to defend the decision to play Cichero considering how utterly awful he had been in his last two appearances for the team. It remains unclear just how injured Jimenez was, but you almost feel like a one-legged Jimenez couldn’t have done worse.
Osorio’s other lineup decisions were based on understandable factors. Benching Dane Richards drew plenty of criticism from Red Bulls fans but Richards has had a history of struggling against the Chicago Fire, but Pietravallo’s brainless performance made it clear that the Red Bulls would have been better off with Seth Stammler in a defensive midfield role and Richards on the right flank.
Pietravallo’s one half of soccer against Chicago was painful to watch as he made clumsy challenge after clumsy challenge and managed to avoid about two or three chances to draw a second yellow card. It would have been one thing if this was Pietravallo’s first such display, but he has has a handful of matches like that, when his late reactions and poor positioning put him in bad spots, resulting in poor challenges and cards galore.
Osorio’s summer signings weren’t the only disappointments. He went with Mike Magee over Mac Kandji and Magee rewarded Osorio with as toothless a performance as you could want from a forward. Kandji came on in the second half and created problems for the Fire back-line with his size and speed, leading to a goal and nearly a second goal that was cleared off the line by Bakary Soumare.
Does Thursday’s loss, and Osorio’s hand in that loss, mean the coach should be fired? It shouldn’t, but it just might if Red Bull leadership in Salzburg decides he hasn’t done enough in his first year. Ultimately though, it is hard to imagine Red Bull cutting ties with Osorio after the hefty price they paid to the Chicago Fire for his services.
Osorio is still a good coach, and it wasn’t a case of him not preparing his team for Thursday. He spent hours in training going over the exact kind of plays that led to at least three of Chicago’s goals. As much as a head coach must shoulder a hefty portion of blame in situations like Thursday’s, at some point the players must be held accountable. With the exception of Juan Pablo Angel and Dave Van Den Bergh, every other start for the Red Bulls has to come away from Thursday feeling like they could have, and should have done better.
The same applies for Osorio, who will have to wait until Sunday to see if the Red Bulls will be given a second chance and a place in the playoffs. If D.C. United fails to beat Columbus on Sunday, Osorio will have a chance for redemption and if there’s a positive from Thursday’s loss, it is that Osorio learned what players he absolutely cannot count on. It was a painful and costly lesson though and one Osorio must shoulder the blame for.
What do you think of Thursday’s Red Bulls debacle? Do you think Osorio deserves most of the blame? Think the players deserve most of the blame?
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