Bigsoccerhead: A Goal Revolution vs New England
Less than a week after the Boston bombings, the New York Red Bulls hosted the New England Revolution, in a toned down rivalry game.
The Hits & Misses
Better understanding up-front: The Thierry Henry – Fabian Espindola partnership has left a lot to be desired so far this season, and last Wednesday’s loss against Sporting Kansas City might have been the last time the duo would start up-front together (at least for a while), were it not for the absences of Juninho and Peguy Luyindula. However, their absences may have been a blessing in disguise, as Henry and Espindola showed a very good understanding from the start of the game, combining numerous times, including on an opportunity that Jonny Steele missed when he was clear on goal. Espindola also played an integral part in Henry’s goal when he quickly transitioned defense into attack by feeding Steele, who in turn assisted Henry. Espindola’s movement was the determining factor in their improved chemistry, since he spent less time on the wing, opting instead to frequently cut in between New England’s center-backs, and to drop into the midfield to collect the ball.
Cahill’s return to the middle: It’s undeniable that the Red Bulls are just better when Cahill plays as a center midfielder. His seemingly inexhaustible energy pesters opposing midfielders, and perhaps more importantly, allows Dax McCarty to get involved in the attack more often. Even though Cahill sits back a little more than McCarty when the two line-up in the midfield, his runs into the box are still a nuisance to defenders. Juninho’s return will cause Mike Petke some selection headaches, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the midfield is less dynamic without Cahill.
Tendency to sit back: Good offensive production tends to disguise a team’s ills, but the Red Bulls have a persistent problem that is difficult to ignore: the team sits back when leading in the second half. After playing the best forty-five minutes of their season, New York allowed New England to push up and field and dictate a lot of the play in the second half. Fortunately, the Revs have had trouble scoring, and their impotence in front of goal continued. Against a better team, the Red Bulls’ inclination to sit deep will hurt them, as was the case in Portland, when Petke’s men gave up a two-goal lead.
Player Ratings (1-10)
Robles (7): With New England’s possession rarely translating into opportunities, Robles remained a spectator for much of the game. That being said, his quick thinking denied Jerry Bengtson a clear goal-scoring chance, and his reflexes were tested when Goncalves had a point-blank shot on his goal.
Barklage (6): The first eight minutes of the game were a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the right-back. Barklage scored an own goal in the fifth minute, but quickly redeemed himself when he assisted Espindola with a well measured long-ball. Barklage also had a powerful header saved in the first half.
Pearce (8): Say what you will about New England’s offensive struggles, it’s hard to score when a center-back plays like Pearce did. Sure-footed in his tackles, excellent in his reading of Bengtson’s movements, Pearce looked like a seasoned defender who was calm and collected, and always looked to distribute from the back.
Holgersson (7): Shared man-marking duties with Pearce, and put on a pretty solid performance, preventing Bengtson from having too much time on the ball. However, Holgersson was at fault when Bengtson found space behind New York’s defense, and Fegundez reminded us of how slow the big Swede can be at times.
Miller (7): Miller continues his tour of redemption. The left-back was solid defensively, even though he was tasked with marking Kelyn Rowe, who had some inspired moments. If Miller continues to show this sort of consistency, it’s safe to say that only another defensive debacle will cause him to relinquish the position.
McCarty (8): Less restricted in his offensive movements when paired up with Cahill, the feisty midfielder was enormously influential in the attacking third. McCarty scored the opening goal with an opportunistic left-footed volley, and his quick distribution was essential to the team’s offensive movement.
Cahill (7): More defensively minded than McCarty, Cahill still contributed offensively, assisting his midfield partner on the first goal, and almost scoring one of his own when he met Henry’s cross in the first half. New York’s midfield saw a clear drop in production when Lloyd Sam replaced the Australian.
Alexander (6): Started off in his usual position on the right, Alexander moved to the middle when Sam subbed in for Cahill. Less involved in the first half than he was in the second, when he broke free on the right and selflessly gifted Steele his first goal of the season.
Steele (8): The left winger opened up his scoring tally for the season, tapping in a sitter at the end of the game after he had already beautifully assisted Henry on the game’s third goal. Steele has offered dangerous crosses all season, but his growing confidence is turning him into a far more industrious player.
Henry (8): Titi is starting to enjoy his soccer. He showed excellent pace when he caught up with Steele’s assist, and slotted the ball in the back of the net in trademark style. When the midfield finds the Frenchman with space, it’s very hard to stop him. Henry should have had an assist to his name when Espindula failed to convert his cross into a goal.
Espindula (8): Got involved in the game early on with his runs, scoring a similar goal to the one he scored in Portland. Espindula seems to be adjusting to his new, more central role with the Red Bulls, which means that his partnership with Henry will continue to improve. His quick pass to Steele was key to the team’s third goal.
Sam (5): Made a quick impact on the right after he replaced Cahill. His speed is disconcerting to defenders, but his defensive presence needs to improve, as does his reading of the game.
Olave (6): Came in for Barklage to strengthen the back four. Slotted in the middle with Pearce, moving Holgersson to the right side. Olave won the ball in the 81st minute that ultimately resulted in Henry’s goal.
Akpan (6): Made his Red Bulls debut, and seems to have already won over Thierry Henry, which could mean more minutes. Akpan put Alexander through for the fourth goal of the game.
Follow Eric Krakauer on Twitter @bigsoccerheadny