Undermanned and often outplayed, the Red Bulls managed to squeeze out a 2-1 win at home Friday night against the Revolution. The Revs matched and even exceeded the Red Bulls energy from the start, but it was the home side that got off to the faster start.
The Red Bulls almost scored within the first minute of the game after a good chance from Luke Rodgers missed the target. Rodgers remained active early on again nearly found the opener in the 5th minute. With some good movement and a nice pass from Henry, Rodgers had a decent chance from about the twelve yards out in which he dragged wide of the frame. However after these early chances, the Revs were able to assert more control and possession in the game. The Revs effectively used their advantage in the center of the park, playing with three central midfielders as opposed to the two of the Red Bulls, to slow the tempo of the game down and establish a rhythm. Aside from the first few minutes, the Revs had the better of the play in the game, primarily because of the numbers up advantage in the midfield. The Red Bulls ineffectively dealt with the situation as the combination of Lindpere and Tainio failed to figure the situation out. They could have brought a forward back to mark the deepest central midfielder of the Revs or step a center back up at times to deal with Shalrie Joseph, the Revs most attacking midfield. However, instead Lindpere and Tainio were frequently caught in a 2v3 situation and as a result failed to get effective pressure to the ball, which allowed the Revs to control the game and maintain possession.
The match changed in the 33rd minute when Stephen Keel was again at the center of a defensive error as he brought down Rajko Lekic in the box as the two contested a service from the left side. There was a question of offside, but it was certainly a foul by Keel. For me though his positioning was at fault as the service came from the left side, but Keel allowed Lekic to get in front of him, in a position where Lekic could have gotten to the ball first. Because Keel was caught on the wrong side on Lekic, rather than being between him and the ball, he was forced to bring Lekic down, which resulted in the penalty. I don’t want to harp on the negatives and bash a player, but for the reserves who have stepped in for the missing starters, I have been most unimpressed with Keel. The speed of the game just seems to be a little too much for him and it looks like he is in over his head a little. Hopefully it is just part of a learning curve though, as Keel does not have a lot of experience playing in the MLS. His mistake would ultimately not cost the Red Bulls as Goalkeeper Sutton made a good save on Shalrie Joseph’s penalty kick to keep the scores locked at zero.
This deadlock would not last long though, as only two minutes later the Red Bulls would get the opener after an own goal from Revs defender Ryan Cochrane after a good run by Henry. Henry played a nice give and go with Rodgers and was able to collect the ball along the byline. He picked his head up and played a nice ball along the ground across the box. Cochrane was running back to his goal and tried to cut the ball out, but ended up deflecting the ball into the corner of his own goal. It was a very fortunate turn of events for the Red Bulls. Having been outplayed for a good portion of the half, the Red Bulls were on the verge of going down a goal from a penalty, which would have been a relatively accurate reflection of the game. Not only did they dodge this bullet, but their fortunes continued as they received the own goal to give them the lead, which was not deserved. These few moments marked the most eventful parts of the half as the teams went into halftime with the Red Bulls leading 1-0.
The start of the second half was similar to that of the first with the Red Bulls getting an early chance, however this time they made the Revs pay. After Henry collected a long ball inside the box he cleverly evaded Revs defender Cochrane and coolly slotted the ball into the far side netting from about eight yards – it was a trademark finish from Henry. Going 2-0 up early in the second half, it seemed the Red Bulls got had gotten that decisive second goal and would put the game to bed. The goal seemed to bring the Red Bulls to life for the few minutes after they scored as the ball was pinging around the field faster than it had and a new confidence seemed to be instilled in the team. However, this would not last long as the Red Bulls conceded in the 53rd minute, only about three minutes after they went up 2-0. The goal came off another good service from Chris Tierney on the left side as he whipped the ball into the back post. Zak Boggs found the ball unmarked on the far side after Roy Miller had tucked in to pick up Shalrie Joseph. It was a well taken goal from Boggs as he received the ball and volleyed it across the face of the goal into the far corner. The goal however, was disappointing for the Red Bulls because having just gone up 2-0, this goal gave the Revs the lifeline they needed and allowed the back into the game. The goal gave the Revs new confidence and belief and ensured that the 35 minutes of the game would be a battle.
The Revs continued to up their pressure in the 55th minute when they brought on forward Kenny Mansally for midfielder Pat Phelan. This marked a shift in the Revs system as they changed from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2. This was very effective for the Revs for a few reasons. The first being that Lekic needed more support up top and bringing on the extra forward provided this. Despite the Revs good possession in midfield, they could not translate this to good attacking chances because Lekic was pretty isolated by himself up top and therefore struggled to hold the ball and link up with the rest of the midfield. Another thing that contributed to this was that Shalrie Joseph, who was playing as the most attacking central midfielder did not look comfortable in the advanced role and struggled to find space to receive the ball and serve as a link between Lekic and the rest of the midfield. Bringing on another forward allowed Joseph to drop deeper in the midfield and collect the ball to start many of the Revs moves. The Revs immediately looked more comfortable in the 4-4-2 and Joseph was pulling the strings in the midfield for the Revs, who began to dominate the game and, unlike the first half, started to create chances on goal.
Despite the Revs valiant efforts, it was a combination of the Revs quality and the poor performances from the Red Bulls that allowed the Revs to control the majority of the second half. Tainio and Lindpere were very poor on the night as they failed to assert any control in the center of the park. Even when the Revs changed to a 4-4-2, which made it so it was an even 2v2 in the central midfield, the two were outplayed and allowed the Revs to dictate the game. Similarly, Solli was uncharacteristically poor on the right side, and almost cost the team the three points in the 70th minute after his back pass to the goalie was cut out by Mensally. Mensally was through on goal but duffed his shot wide of the frame. He really should have done better and leveled the score. It was disappointing in that aside from Henry and Rodgers, who have to be given the majority of the credit for the win, it was the regular first team players as well as the reserves filling in who were sloppy and at fault for the poor performance by the team.
The end of the second half could not come soon enough for the Red Bulls. Even in the last fifteen minutes when the Red Bulls simply tried to just kill the game off, slowing down the tempo and maintaining possession, they frequently made mistakes and gave the ball away. They were nearly punished in the final stages of the game as Lekic scored a goal in the 87th minute only for the linesman to wave him offside, which was the right call. Similarly Mensally had a good chance in the closing stages of the game as he volleyed a shot from about fifteen yards away that narrowly sailed over the net, which may have beaten Sutton if it was on goal. On the whole, the score line certainly did not reflect course of the game. The Red Bulls were simply outplayed by a Revolution team who seemed to want the game more and have to feel hard done by the outcome of the game. In the end though, it’s the three points that counts so despite the performance it was definitely a good result. It’s on to the next one for the Red Bulls, who travel to Portland next Sunday to take on the Timbers, where hopefully they will be able to put in a better performance.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)