Photo by ISIphotos.com
BY MIKE NASTRI
A mark of a playoff caliber team is to win despite not playing the best soccer. The New York Red Bulls showed exactly that against FC Dallas on Saturday night.
The Red Bulls came out flat and uninspired in the first fifteen minutes of the game. It cost them a goal in the tenth minute as Dax McCarty was left wide open on a Heath Pearce cross.
"We played very, very poor on the first 10-15 minutes," said head coach Hans Backe. "We looked really paralyzed and it was only a matter of time before they scored the first goal. The next 15-20 minutes I think we responded rather well, the way we played and broke the line."
This was not the way the Red Bulls wanted to start coming off a loss the week before. But the Red Bulls showed poise under their new head coach and settled down for the rest of the first half. After a flat start in 2009, the Red Bulls would never be able to rally back.
After the early flurry by FC Dallas, the 2010 Red Bulls did settle down and created some chances of their own including a Juan Pablo Angel goal called back due to offside.
FC Dallas would take the reigns again to start the second half, but Bouna Coundoul was up to the task. Coundoul made a couple of highlight reel stops, allowing the Red Bulls to stay in the game.
"He was by far the Man of the Match," said Juan Pablo Angel. "He made some impressive saves for us and I'm delighted for him-the way he bounced back."
"He was on tonight," added Tim Ream. "It was Bouna Time as we like to say. His footwork was great, his positioning was great and the saves he made, he saved us. When we needed him to come up big, he came up big."
Joel Lindpere once again displayed his importance to the Red Bull midfield using his skill to get past a defender inside the box and slipping the ball to a much more active Angel for the goal. There are two positives to take away from this goal.
Lindpere continues to show that he can be a consistent work horse in the midfield, something the Red Bulls haven't had in some time. Angel's confident finishing and ability to find a seam to get open proved that Angel is starting to come back to form after recovering from injury.
"I am full of confidence in what I can do and if the ball gets into the box I know I am capable enough to put some of them away," said Angel.
With the match tied, Coundoul once again had to come up with a few key saves. Coundoul rebounded nicely after a rough match against Chivas USA last week. The Senegalese keeper played the role of hero for the Red Bulls.
"He rebounded well I must say, he was absolutely top class today," added Hans Backe. "His saves on the line, he blocked shots and you can't play better in a way."
Goalkeeper was a position that was a big question mark in the off season. Coundoul, despite some blips here and there, has proven he can handle the load so far for New York. If Coundoul can continue to make key saves and play more confidently, the Red Bulls can concentrate on other needs to improve their team over the summer.
But this already improving Red Bull team had to overcome a few more obstacles to earn the three points. After Mac Kandji drew a PK at the top of the box in the 65th minute, Juan Pablo stepped up to the spot with the chance for his second of the game. However, Dario Sala was up to the task making the diving save to his right.
The Red Bulls hiccuped on a golden opportunity to steal a win at Red Bull Arena. Cue a key contribution from a much deeper 2010 Red Bulls bench. Sinisa Ubiparipovic drew an errant tackle at the corner of the box and a second PK for the Red Bulls. Angel wouldn't be stopped on his second PK, blasting the ball upper ninety for game clinching goal in the 90th minute.
The final result, the 2-1 victory, was the most important thing to take out of this game. On a night when the Red Bulls didn't have their best effort, they were still able to come away with points. This is a promising sign that the 2010 Red Bulls can grind out victories and have players that make plays with the game on the line.
"It was a very difficult game for us and today, it was only about the result," said Angel. "Sometimes, you play well and don't get results and today, we played not as good as we wanted to bu managed to get the three points."
REINFORCEMENTS COMING FOR NY
Brian Nielsen should be cleared to play for the next match against the Union on Saturday. He will primarily be used at left midfielder but, can also be used as a second forward.
"When you play away against the big teams and you probably need to defend a bit more, he's a second striker with a lot of pace and is very good on the ball," said Backe.
Luke Rodgers still hasn't received his visa, but Backe said midweek that he expects this to happen soon. Rodgers is speedy forward that will could be a nice combination with Angel.
Both Nielsen and Rodgers will provide some speed for a team that lacks true pace besides Dane Richards.
ROBINSON MAKES DEBUT
Carl Robinson got his first 32 minutes of the 2010 MLS season on Saturday and looked pretty good. Robinson had a few very nice sliding challenges in midfield. Robinson also displayed his passing touch on a great ball to the back post off a set piece. Ubiparipovic couldn't get a clean touch on what could of been the game clinching goal.
The team is in first place in the Eastern Conference and have a winnable game against the expansion Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon. The Red Bulls will also play the Union again four days later at Red Bull Arena in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game.