By DAVE MARTINEZ
The New York Red Bulls had months to address many of the pressing problems surrounding the team, but their opening day loss felt quite familiar. Defensive miscues put young rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara under fire, set piece situation’s looked as shaky as ever, and the team could only manage to find an attacking rhythm in spurts. The end result was a visibly frustrated Red Bull team both on and off the pitch.
New York Coach Hans Backe was adamant about improving the team’s set piece defending all preseason, but the team once again looked tentative in the back when challenged. Their nervousness cost them.
“Two very silly, crappy goals,” Backe observed after the match. “You can't give away two goals like that; it’s assists from our guys. Poor clearances in our 18 yard and of course Roy Miller’s assist in the second goal. We deserved a better result.”
New York withstood an early attack and managed to establish a few minutes of control before a dead ball situation pinned them back. Daniel Hernandez sent an attempt in from about 35 yards out. The initial clearance was headed towards the far corner where midfielder Andrew Jacobson gathered the ball. A sharp cross into the box surprised a nervous Markus Holgersson, who flubbed a one-time clearance attempt. Another failed clearance by Dax McCarty kept the ball in play and allowed a pressing Zach Loyd to pounce and score the game's opening goal.
A mental error in the second half on the part of Roy Miller sealed New York’s fate. The Costa Rican defender sent an ill-advised backpass towards Stephan Keel that was intercepted by Blas Perez. The Panamanian cut towards the inside, stretched the defense and lobbed an open ball towards Ricardo Villar, who chipped a shot past Meara for the deciding goal.
“You can't give a handicap two goals down with those kind of individual mistakes,” Backe stated.
The frustration in the back made it a long day for the Red Bull attack which simply could not find a proper tempo. Forward Juan Agudelo, who received a surprise start, lamented the team’s inability to find their game. “We weren’t able to catch a rhythm and that really gave them confidence to catch a rhythm and we weren’t able to come back,” he said. “We couldn't finish off to tie the game.”
Agudelo played the high striker for most of the match, with Henry desperately manning the midfield to find a way to break open the attack. The combination yielded little as New York struggled to put together a strong run on net.
“It is tough being by myself at times because Henry likes to check in the middle,” Agudelo said of the Red Bulls in-game tactic. “I felt like it was great when it was two forwards (he and Kenny Cooper) and Henry was able to check in the middle. I really enjoy having Henry as sort of a midfielder/playmaker because that’s what he enjoys and I think that’s his best qualities.”
Henry, who connected with second-half substitute Kenny Cooper for the Red Bull’s lone goal of the night, was visibly perturbed both on and off the field. The team’s inability to string an attack together had the French striker throwing his arms up in despair throughout the match. He showed visible disdain when midfielder Dane Richards was subbed out of the match. He was vehemently arguing calls with the ref for much of the afternoon.
Not all was lost on the evening. New York enjoyed a solid outing by rookie keeper Ryan Meara, who beat Dallas on several point blank attempts and showed an aggressive attitude on the back-line. Kenny Cooper was also a bright spot, as his infusion to the match opened up the attack with his holding ability calming movement in the final third. Even so, it did little to make up for what was a discombobulated Red Bull’s side.
The end product was a carbon copy of the pervasive disappointment and short comings New York suffered the previous year; surely not the kind of start the Red Bulls envisioned this off-season.