Monday, April 16, 2007

Perfect Storm: S.S. Red Bull Sinks FC Dallas

A funny thing happened on the way to another bad week for the Red Bull -- Clint Mathis and Bruce Arena, two people with about as much in common as Don Imus and Vivian Stringer, got together and said "No Way!" Mathis, called into emergency playmaking action because of the absence of injured captain Claudio Reyna, delivered an alltime clutch performance. And Arena, faced with the prospect of an empty stadium, horrible weather and irritable fan base, devised a lineup and gameplan which couldn't have worked any better.

Inspired by Bruce and The Cletus, the Red Bull recorded a thorough, dominant 3-nil victory over FC Dallas at rain-soaked Giants Stadium on Sunday, and perhaps set a new standard for this renamed, new-fangled, star-crossed franchise.

On offense, Mathis was a revelation in "the hole," that mystical place between the midfielders and forwards where unconventional, fluid, creative players go to work their magic. Jozy Altidore, the lone striker with John Wolyniec mercifully benched, flourished up top, deftly converting a nifty Mathis corner for the first Red Bull goal. Newbie Dane Richards jetted up and down the right flank with verve and purpose, assisting Mathis on the second Red Bull tally, and Dave Van den Bergh was rewarded for his hard work on the left with an injury-time score to complete the rout.

The Mathis-for-Wolyniec move will understandably get more attention, but the inclusion of Hunter Freeman at the expense of Marvell Wynne was a master stroke by Arena. Freeman's steady positioning on the right allowed Richards the freedom to do his thing on the wing, and the rookie improved greatly on his Columbus performance, causing Dallas all kinds of problems throughout the game. An added benefit of the Wynne benching is the signal it sends to the squad: Play as bad as Marvell did last week and you will sit. Period.

Defensively, Carlos Mendes joined Jeff Parke at center fullback, with Seth Stammler in the defensive midfield role and Dema Kovalenko slotting into the Claudio spot. All four did fine work shutting down the Dallas Big Two -- Carlos Ruiz and Kenny Cooper -- while Todd Dunivant and the aforementioned Freeman were stellar on the flanks.

For Dallas, there's not much to say. Granted, they just flew in from LA on Friday, but Ruiz and Cooper had very few touches and the team as a whole seemed overwhelmed by the horrible conditions and didn't come close to matching the Red Bull intensity.

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