Friday, May 25, 2007

Red Bull Strike a Blow for The Beautiful Game

Last night, The Red Bull of Major League Soccer, confronted with the absence of their two best fullbacks and their top holding midfielder, did what storied European clubs Liverpool and AC Milan refused to do earlier this week, they put their most creative, attacking players on the field and let them play The Beautiful Game. The result, both on the pitch and among the die-hard fans scattered around cavernous Giants Stadium, was also quite fetching: A 3-nil victory over the Chicago Fire and about 9,000 or so very happy customers.

Bruce Arena, to his credit, rejected the negative and embraced the light, putting forwards Juan Pablo Angel, John Wolyniec and Jozy Altidore in the lineup. Attacking midfielders Dema Kovalenko and Dave Van den Bergh were pressed into action at fullback, with speedy Dane Richards and playmaker Clint Mathis joining out-of-position Jozy in the midfield. And it worked beautifully, with skill and creativity and movement overwhelming Chicago from the opening whistle (two goals in the first three minutes) and punctuated by a cool Angel finish at the end.

This is the way the game should be played, unlike the Liverpool-Milan European Cup Final, which featured two lone strikers (don't gimme Gerrard was a forward, he was a fifth midfielder given free rein to make runs into the box, just like Kaka for AC) and eight -- count'em, eight -- other midfielders charged with one negative task: stop the other guys from scoring. And the two forwards who did start were Pippo Inzaghi, famous for goals which bounce off his body (in Wednesday's first goal, his arm, YouTube), and Dirk Kuyt, who is a great defensive player for a forward. Meanwhile, Craig Bellamy, who scored one goal and created another (YouTube) in Liverpool's thrilling victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, never got on the field, and Peter Crouch, who was only the second-top scorer in the entire competition with six goals, was held out until far too late in Athens.

Unlike Rafa Benitez, Arena, at least for now, realizes the potency of his talented group of attackers -- Angel, Altidore, Mathis, Richards and Wolyniec -- and is encouraging them to perform their magic in pursuit of MLS Cup 2007. If last night's match is any indication, the adulation and support of long-suffering RBNY/Metros fans is not far behind, as the laughter and optimism among the crowd filing out of Giants Stadium was as noticeable as it was welcome.

  • A Public Service Advisory For The Logic-Impaired: We are not suggesting The Red Bull are better than Liverpool or AC Milan, which would be akin to saying Miss Piggy is hotter than Miss Scarlett. Not. We merely posit the opinion that this week, The Red Bull put their most talented, exiting players on the field and encouraged them to go forward and score goals, while Benitez and Ancelotti decidedly did not.
  • Thursday, May 24, 2007

    The Wrath of Con: Cagey Kreis Hustles Mo

    Mo Johnston and Toronto FC fleeced hapless Steve Pastorino and Real Salt Lake last year, nabbing negligently unprotected alltime MLS goalscoring leader Jason Kreis in the Expansion Draft and extorting an allocation in exchange for his rightful return to Utah. A neat little grift from the Great White North. Kreis, however, exacted sweet revenge this week, hoodwinking Toronto into swapping Alecko Eskandarian and a First Round SuperDraft pick for Jeff Cunningham in a sting that'd make Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker proud.

    Like most scams, on paper, this looks like a square-deal for Mo and The Mounties. Cunningham is one of the most prolific strikers in the history of Major League Soccer and Esky is struggling in the Land of Maple Syrup (YouTube). But look closely. Cunningham's teams have compiled an uninspiring 113-114-56 record in his 10-year MLS career. Even bad teams score goals, and Cunningham, age 30, has led plenty of bad teams in scoring.

    The 24-year-old Eskandarian, on the other hand, scores goals for good teams (YouTube), including an MLS Cup Most Valuable Player performance for DC United in 2004. DC were 51-39-34 with Esky, made the playoffs all four years and in addition to the MLS Cup crown, won the Supporter's Shield in 2006. Toss in the SuperDraft pick and the fact that Esky's dad is one of our favorite Cosmos players of alltime, and this is a freakin' steal for Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    If You Play Them, They Will Score

    Funny thing about strikers, they need to be on the field to score goals. Luckily for Red Bull fans, Bruce Arena took note on Saturday night and started two forwards -- Juan Pablo Angel and John Wolyniec -- along with attacking midfielder Clint Mathis and wingers Dave Van den Bergh and Dane Richards, and lo and behold our heroes recorded a thorough 4-nil victory over the slumping Columbus Crew.

    With young stud Jozy Altidore on an excused absence to attend his Senior Prom in Florida, Staten Island's favorite son Woly got a rare start alongside the superstar Colombian and it paid immediate dividends, with Wolyniec bagging a goal and an assist and Angel setting up two scores before finding the back of the net himself off a horrendous Crew mistake.

    Thus the Red Bull find themselves in second place in the East, trailing the Revs by three points, with a game in hand, despite injuries to captain Claudio Reyna, first-choice goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus and hard-working fullback Hunter Freeman. Seth Stammler filled in for Claudio Reyna as holding midfielder, and hardman Dema Kovalenko moved to the backline, allowing Woly to move up top with Angel and force the action on the opposition, as opposed to adopting a defensive (and often losing) 4-5-1 lineup.

  • DeGrandpre Memo to RBNY Season Ticketholders (Hat Tip to MLS Underground) includes updates on stadium construction, practice facility and free ticket giveaway for Thursday vs Chicago Fire, perhaps in response to lackluster attendance at Giants Stadium (h/t BigAppleSoccer).
  • Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Why Bob Bradley is The Right Guy for Job

    The removal of the interim tag from Bob Bradley's title as Head Coach of the US Men's National Team has stimulated vigorous debate, from those who ask what the heck took so long to those questioning the wisdom of hiring yet another American coach. But there are two good reasons for making Bob Bradley The Man: 1) He understands the unique circumstances of American players and 2) He genuinely, intensely, passionately wanted the gig.

    Bradley Knows American Players:

    American soccer players must overcome obstacles simply not found in Germany, Argentina, France, Portugal or Sweden (to name a few totally random nations), including Little League, Pop Warner, AAU hoops, a totally hostile print media, an indifferent to curious-at-best broadcast media, a Corporate Culture largely invested in rival domestic professional sports and their stadia and an Amateur-to-NCAA-to-Pro structure totally alien to world soccer.

    Bob Bradley grew up in this environment and helped grow the sport of soccer -- both collegiately and professionally -- despite these obstacles (unlike Jurgen Klinsmann, Jose Pekerman, Gerard Houllier, Carlos Queiroz or Sven-Goran Ericcson to name a few totally random coaches). Bradley can relate to Jay DeMerit's journey. Can Klinsmann? Bradley can commiserate with the struggles of DaMarcus Beasley. Can Queiroz? Houllier? This shared experience in surmounting these challenges should not be dismissed lightly.

    Bradley Wants the Gig:

    Memo to US Soccer: You wore your best little black dress, took them to dinner, paid for their lobster (YouTube), but at the end of the night, Klinsmann, Pekerman, Houllier, Queiroz and Ericcson et al were just not that into you. We know it hurts, but it was Bradley who loved you all along, and you should thank your lucky stars that he looked the other way while you shamelessly courted the Foreign Legion.

    Despite your indiscretions, Bradley will do everything he can to guide you through the peaks and valleys on the path to South Africa 2010. And he won't abandon you along the way, which does tend to happen when foreign coaches start feeling the heat en route to the World Cup Finals. Bradley's aim is true (YouTube). Dalliances aside, you made the right call.

    Super-Sized Hypocrisy With Extra Fries

    There are plenty of reasons to slam Corporate Red Bull. Marketing and promotion of the current squad and the 2007 season is horrible, the game atmosphere at Giants Stadium is pathetic and the television broadcast situation is spotty at best. But when the crooks at St. Barnabas Health Care start piling on, things are going way too far.

    MLS Underground (an excellent soccer blog, btw) gets the ball rolling with a post on St. Barnabas's supposed reasons for parting company with Corporate Red Bull:
    From MLS Underground:
    "MLS Underground has learned from a source with knowledge of the situation that St. Barnabas decided to drop their sponsorship of the Red Bulls because they didn't want to be associated with the drink after which the Red Bulls are named. The Health Care company believed that the organization was pushing the drink on children and because they consider the drink unhealthy, St. Barnabas made the decision to sever ties."

    So, according to this, St. Barnabas Health Care is all about the children and what is healthy for them, right? And to associate with a company that tries to hook our precious babies on nasty, bad products was just too much for the altruistic, wonderful folks at St. Barnabas Health Care, right?

    Ha! Hypocrisy, Thy Name is St. Barnabas!

    As anyone who has ever entered St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, NJ would know, those folks could not care less about pumping up tykes with crap food and drink. Otherwise, why the hell would they have a freakin' McDonalds in their hospital? And this nonsense about healthy selections and other items available in the cafeteria is hooey. The hospital MickeyD's is packed with kids scarfing down fat-laden burgers and fries and the cash registers ring out in joy during every purchase.

    Trust us, parents with a loved one actually in that hospital are hard-pressed telling Junior, "Thanks again for being a trooper while your little sister is getting ready for surgery, son, but sorry, you absolutely cannot have the Shrek Happy Meal you've seen a million times on TV. Buck up and have an apple."

    The Red Bull drink may be junk (we at Red Bull Rising have posited that opinion several times) but it is an indisputable fact that McDonald's has pushed more unhealthy products on children than Red Bull can ever in a million years imagine to sell. Odd, isn't it, that St. Barnabas trots out the "protect the children" talking point when it's Red Bull, but they have no problem entering a far, far more profitable business arrangement with McDonald's?

    Or perhaps, if you care to learn a little bit about St. Barnabas Health Care, it isn't odd at all.

    From the NY Times:
    "By systematically inflating the bills for their sickest elderly patients, the prosecutors said, the executives of the St. Barnabas Health Care System bilked the federal government of at least $630 million from 1995 to 2003. The hospital system ... and its executives who had been threatened with criminal prosecution ... agreed to repay the federal government $265 million."

    Corporate Red Bull may or may not be bad guys, but in the interests of fairness and decency, we can all agree that until federal prosecutors find they've robbed over $600 Million Dollars from the American Taxpayer, they at least ain't as bad as St. Barnabas Health Care. Now, pass the fries and let's get back to soccer.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Bruce Almighty: The Arena Rules

    OK, here's how it works. When the Red Bull win, the players had the right approach, stuck to the plan, did what they were told and collectively, the coaches, organization and players won the game. But when The Red Bull lose, as they did on Sunday, the players sucked. That's the World According to Bruce Arena. It's how it worked with the US National Team and it's how it works now that he's back in Major League Soccer. Get used it.

    Sayeth Bruce Almighty:

    "I think we got outplayed in the first half just in terms of the effort aspect of the game. In the second half I thought our performance on the technical side was horrible."
    Notice the clever use of the royal "we" and "our." King Bruce himself wasn't outplayed, of course. Bruce The Infallible's performance on the technical side wasn't horrible either. His Kingdom for a Horse! (YouTube) Or at least Subjects/Players willing to follow Bruce Almighty to the Promised the Land!

    A funny thing happened on the way to the MLS Cup, however, and though lowly serfs ourselves (YouTube), allow us to humbly ask a few questions regarding Sunday's 1-ni loss to the Colorado Rapids:

    1) Did the players bench Jozy Altidore, the team's top goalscorer?

    2) Did the players choose defensive-minded, offensively-limited Seth Stammler as the replacement for injured Claudio Reyna?

    3) Speaking of Reyna, did the players use a DP slot (and over a million bucks) on a 33-year-old who missed 58 of 120 league matches over the course of the past three full seasons with his previous club?

    4) Did the players see Pablo Mastreoni man-marking Juan Pablo Angel and Greg Vanney giving similar treatment to Dane Richards (since the Rapids had no worries about defending Stammler or Mendes or Parke or Regan or Kovalenko) and make no adjustments whatsoever until late in the second half?

    5) Did the players sign off on the brilliant Red Bull marketing plan, which apparently consists of no marketing and results in a cavernous, depressing environment to watch and play professional soccer?

    Here's The World According to Red Bull Rising:

    (At the Risk of Blasphemy and Exile to Elba)

    Arena had a choice to make upon the arrival of Juan Pablo Angel. He could either be positive and field an attacking 4-4-2 side with Dema-Mathis in the middle, Van den Bergh-Richards on the flanks and both Angel and Jozy up top. Or he could be negative and field a defensive 4-5-1 lineup, featuring his most dynamic player on the bench. He chose the negative option and got a negative result. Duh.

    Johan Cruyff put it best:

    "It’s simple. It doesn’t matter how many goals they score, as long as you score one more. Then you win."
    On Sunday, Arena rejected this Cruyffian Logic, tried to concede less goals than the Rapids, lost the game and blamed his players. Just like he tried to concede less goals than the Czech Republic last summer, lost the game and blamed his players. Unless Bruce Almighty comes down from the mountain and joins us commoners starving for positive, entertaining, creative, offensive soccer, the Red Bull win column will become as barren a wasteland as Giants Stadium was on Sunday.

    Wednesday, May 9, 2007

    Open All Night: Red Bull Fans Need Not Apply

    It's official. Red Bull matches not broadcast on TV outlets available to the masses -- as opposed to HD channels which should not be named (hint: mogul/doofus owned and operated) -- result in crushing late-game meltdowns. Unlike Saturday's draw with RSL, the Red Bull paid dearly Tuesday night, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Galaxy in LA, thus prematurely ending their participation in the US Open Cup.

    But, while the opportunity to secure the storied domestic cup has eluded the Red Bull for another year, there was some good news, and his name is Juan Pablo Angel. The Colombian striker by way of River Plate and Aston Villa entered the match in the 62nd minute and managed six shots on goal, including a cracking free-kick which found net in OT for the lone Red Bull tally. Unfortunately, Landon Donovan also made a cameo appearance, sparking the Galaxy to the 3-1 victory.

    Tuesday, May 8, 2007

    MLS Week Five: Tough Starts and Quick Brains

    After his first game in charge of Real Salt Lake, a shaky Jason Kreis sounded just like another guy (YouTube) who landed a top job despite a disturbing lack of experience. On the other hand, Steve Ralston, armed with more experience (YouTube) than you could shake a corner flag at, employed his superior Soccer IQ to spark the Revs past the Fire. Here's Week Five of Major League Soccer 2007, in the words of the participants themselves.

    Red Bull 3, Real Salt Lake 3 -- "It was difficult for me, to be honest. I didn't know really what to do. I didn't know whether to be sitting, standing, or standing on my head. It was tough," Newbie Jason Kreis calms the RSL faithful with steady assurances he's up for the job.

    DC United 2, Chivas USA 1 -- "We're in no spot right now to get upset about ugly wins. We needed a win, we needed three points, and we got it ... No, it wasn't pretty, I'm not going to watch it, but again, it's a win ... We won. Leave us alone," Sunny Ben Olsen looks on the bright side of a butt-ugly victory in LA.

    NE Revolution 3, Chicago Fire 1 -- "The brain is always quicker than the legs and he proves it," Dr. Steve Nicol does a physical examination of Steve Ralston's quick-brained, slow-legged performance.

    Houston Dynamo 3, Colorado Rapids 1 -- "Kyle [Beckerman] and Jovan [Kirovski] were too deep. They never really participated in the offense until the last 10 minutes. There was a lot of room for them (Houston) to break through the midfield," Fashionista Fernando Clavijo fitting two of his players with stylish, but tasteful, goat-horns.

    KC Wizards 1, Columbus Crew 0 -- "We have to make sure that we keep our heads on our shoulders and not get too excited about the fact that we have 12 points right now. We need to make sure we are focusing on the grand scheme, and that is winning championships," Veteran Kevin Hartman tries to keep it real in Kansas City.

    Colorado Rapids 2, Real Salt Lake 0 -- "Any time we get to beat this team here, in front of their fans, it's awesome. We like to send them home unhappy," Rocky Mountain Cup Series participant Kyle Beckerman shows the love to soccer fans in Utah.

    NE Revolution 1, DC United 1 -- "Well, we didn’t lose, but we still didn’t win," Master of the Obvious Josh Gros gets philosophical about DC's struggles.

  • MLS Quotes: Week One | Two | Three | Four | Archive
  • Monday, May 7, 2007

    If You Blow A Game in the Last Two Minutes
    But Nobody Sees It, Does It Make a Noise?

    Thanks to the brilliant MLS broadcast deal with a high-definition cable mogul/doofus who won't be getting any free publicity from this blog (and our tens of readers!) we have no first-hand knowledge of what the hell happened in Utah on Saturday night, but rumor has it, the Red Bull blew a two-goal lead in the waning moments of a 3-3 draw with Under-New-Management Real Salt Lake.

    On the plus side, published reports claim Clint Mathis had a really good game in his return from exile, scoring two goals and setting up a Dane Richards tally. Good for Mathis and even better for the Red Bull, as an inspired, productive Cletus, roaming freely with the borderline obsessive-compulsive, defensively-positioned Claudio Reyna providing cover, could spark a potential Juan Pablo Angel-Jozy Altidore striking partnership to heights previously unseen in Major League Soccer. Provided Bruce Arena resists his conservative instincts and unleashes an offensive Mathis-Angel-Altidore lineup, of course. Stay tuned, as Juan Pablo scored his work visa and may play on Sunday against the Colorado Rapids (Hat tip to Big Apple Soccer).

    Oh, and four words for the mogul/doofus (YouTube) who secured the rights to Red Bull-Real without an agreement with the equally loathesome NY/NJ metropolitan cable TV Jackass: Karma is a bitch.

    Friday, May 4, 2007

    When All Else Fails, Take a Dive

    Say you're a fading 33-year-old superstar, consigned to the bench in favor of a relative nobody, as your once proud franchise flounders at the bottom of the table, pointless after three games. Your newbie coach, desperately trying to avoid a pink slip, inserts you into the match for a moment of magic conjured effortlessly five years ago, but at this stage of your illustrious career, the thrill is gone (YouTube). What to do? If you're Jaime Moreno, you take a dive.

    New England Revolution defender James Riley, the unwitting straight-man in Moreno's shameful, but ultimately successful farce, summed up the blatant manipulation of the hapless Ref with an honesty which stood in stark contrast to his opponent's mendacity.

    "He probably weighs three times as much as me," said Riley, recounting the perfectly legal shoulder-to-shoulder contact in the box which Moreno sir-laurence-olivier-ed into an unwarranted PK and an undeserved draw. "Afterwards, he winked at me. He knew he dove."

    And so did everybody else, James. So did everybody else.

    Thursday, May 3, 2007

    Jason Kreis, Superstar!

    The King is dead. Long live the King. Jason Kreis, The Player, has retired from Real Salt Lake, but Jason Kreis, The Brand New Head Coach, is now in charge of the struggling Major League Soccer squad, with John Ellinger kicked upstairs to the technical director position.

    The first player signed by expansion Real Salt Lake, Kreis was toiling with mixed results in Real's midfield this season, as Ellinger opted for speedy Jeff Cunningham in a lone striker role en route to a lackluster 0-2-2 record. Kreis takes over a franchise perhaps best known for being the current squad of 17-year-old phenom Freddy Adu, and for controversies surrounding a long-term stadium deal in Utah.

    Who Had The Under on Guevara Pissing Off Preki?

    It took all of four games for Amadao Guevara to convince Preki that he could best contribute to the success of Chivas by moving to Canada. Red Bull fans, of course, are shocked...shocked that El Lobo's petulant behavior and over-rated game failed to impress the Goat-Worshippers of Los Angeles. It ain't like he ever flipped out before.

    Preki is backpedaling (panicking?) on the reported deal with Toronto FC, which would send Paulo Nagamura and a draft pick to LA in exchange for Guevara, so it might not happen. But clearly, El Lobo, who recently extolled the virtues of Southern California while taking cheap shots at New York and Red Bull fans, has worn out his welcome. Next stop Toronto? Dallas? Stay tuned.

    Tuesday, May 1, 2007

    MLS Week Four: Insomnia, Impotence, Inspiration

    Winless DC United is tossing and turning at night (YouTube), unable to get any shut-eye in the face of three-straight losses, FC Dallas can't summon the stamina (YouTube) to close the deal in crunch time, and Landon Donovan can barely contain himself (YouTube) in the presence of a loose ball. Welcome to Week Four of Major League Soccer 2007, in the words of the participants themselves.

    Red Bulls 1, FC Dallas 0 -- "I don't really care if people underestimate us. Let them and they'll pay the price," Dave (The Big Easy) Van den Bergh calls out the Red-Bulls-Ain't-For-Real crowd.

    KC Wizards 1, Toronto FC 0 -- "From the moment we walked out, it was an environment where this is what we live, eat, breathe and sleep for," Eddie Johnson smells the roses in Canada, after beating Toronto FC for the second time in four days.

    Columbus Crew 1, DC United 0 -- "We've given up seven goals in three games. It's tough to sleep at night," Troy Perkins prescribes NyQuil as the cure for what ills underachieving United.

    NE Revolution 1, FC Dallas 0 -- "We tired badly in the second half and just completely ran out of steam ... we just didn't have the energy to push it at the end," Steve Morrow considers Viagra instead of NyQuil as the cure for what ills slumping Dallas.

    LA Galaxy 3, Chivas USA 1 -- "It just squirted free and my eyes just lit up," Landon Donovan provides a glimpse into the soul of a born playmaker, haters be damned.

    Chicago Fire 1, Houston Dynamo 0 -- "I don't know if we could have done anything else but score a goal. It's frustrating when you go out there and play that well and come up with nothing. Mostly, we were in their end and pressuring them and to still lose 1-0, that is as frustrating as it gets," Eddie Robinson calls out the Dynamo forwards.

    Colorado Rapids 2, Real Salt Lake 0 -- "I would be really angry if they outworked us tonight, and that didn't happen," Eddie Pope apparently quite happy with a 2-nil loss to Real's biggest rival.

  • MLS Quotes: Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Archive