Sunday, September 2, 2007

Red Bull Bounce Back, Blank Blanco

The Red Bull bounced back from a disastrous two-game stretch on Saturday night, grinding out a crucial 1-nil victory over Eastern Conference rival Chicago Fire at the Meadowlands.

With Jozy Altidore sidelined due to injury (according to the Red Bull, anyway), John Wolyniec joined Juan Pablo Angel up top, while newbies Paulo Wanchope and Cuauhtemoc Blanco led the Fire line, which basically summed up the difference between the two squads on the night. Angel and Wolyniec were patient and workmanlike, with Woly particularly effective at enduring rough treatment by Chris Brown and an appalling lack of protection from a typically terrible officiating crew. Blanco and Wanchope, on the other hand, spent more energy gesticulating wildly at the ref and linesman than playing soccer, which worked out quite well for the Red Bull.

Angel channeled his frustration at a lack of chances on the evening by cooly converting the one good opportunity that came his way -- courtesy of a Dane Richards feed -- and secured not only the victory, but three big points on a night which saw Kansas City drop two points in a 1-1 draw with Houston.

Three players who had failed to impress of late -- Claudio Reyna, Ronald Wattereus and Dave Van den Bergh -- had good games. Not great, but good. Reyna didn't lose possession once, and although he continued his season-long habit of playing it safe, rather than move the ball up the field, he did manage the game well and kept the Red Bull in fine defensive shape. We'll take it. Van den Bergh, to his credit, played left fullback and didn't let anyone get behind him to score or create a goal. Job done. Wattereus, inserted into the lineup with Tim Conway working a two-gig stint in the Catskills, wasn't tested much, but distributed the ball well and, let's face it, he didn't let in an own goal. Mission accomplished.

Wattereus also provided a bit of comedy. During one of Blanco's temper tantrums, The Walrus, in the act of punting a ball up field, paused for a few seconds to rub the top of the fiery Mexican's head, kinda like Mom's new boyfriend Clark attempting to win over young Timmy. Blanco's slightly bemused, grudgingly admiring reaction was worth the price of admission.

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