Saturday, October 20, 2007

Red Bull Make Point Heading Into Playoffs

The Red Bull had nothing to gain on Thursday night in the City of Angels. With the New England Revolution already booked as the first-round MLS Playoffs opponent, the game against the Galaxy, while admittedly interesting, meant very little to Bruce Arena's Gang. Regardless, there were several positives and a couple of negatives resulting from the 1-1 draw at the Home Depot Center.


  • Jozy Altidore, playing out of position on the wing, had a very strong game, including a poacher's delight open headball goal off The Big Easy, Dave van den Bergh's terrific cross, and appeared 100-percent healthy. A fit Jozy paired with Juan Pablo Angel will be real trouble for the Revolution next week.

  • Dane Richards also had a fine game, continuing his late-season push for rookie of the year, which sadly, will probably be in vain due to Toronto FC's Maurice Edu's strong debut for the US National Team on Wednesday in Switzerland. Voters will likely flock to Edu's cause after he helped Team USA to a rare victory on European soil.

  • Chris Leitch looked shaky again. Nope this is not a typo or editing error, we did not mean to place this point in the NEGATIVE category. This is a good thing, because Arena would have to be nuts to pencil this guy into the lineup on Oct. 27 after another sub-par outing.

  • Despite the absence of Francis "Grandpa" Doe, Claudio Reyna and Clint Mathis, the Red Bull were dangerous offensively. Putting aside (for now) grievances against or allegiances to these guys, it's an indication of good team depth that even without them on the field, the Galaxy had difficulty covering their own third of the pitch.


  • The last thing any squad wants going into the playoffs is a shaky goaltending situation. Landon Donovan's cross was superb and Troy Roberts' header was solid, but Tim Conway's stagefright was the star of the show for the lone Galaxy goal. And the petulant, ill-timed retirement announcement by The Walrus doesn't improve matters.

  • The Big Easy, Dave van den Bergh, limped off the Home Depot pitch on Thursday, a DoublePlus NotGood for the Red Bull. Defensively DVB has been outstanding, solidfying the left fullback slot with poise and skill. Offensively, The Big Easy's natural tendency to overlap has successfully unbalanced the opposition and could also allow for Grandpa's inclusion into the starting lineup as a pseudo-left winger, but actual freelancing withdrawn forward, thanks to the cover provided by DVB. The Red Bull need The Big Easy against The Revs.

  • Shalrie "The Behemoth" Joseph and the Revs have patched up their contractual differences, removing a potential off the field distraction that many Red Bull fans (um...including us) had hoped would cut into the focus and commitment of the former St. John's University star's physically dominating game. Now, not so much.
  • Friday, October 19, 2007 Strikes Again!

    Don't look now but the Beckham Rules are out of control. Check out the screen grab above. MLS is so hellbent on getting the Los Angeles Galaxy and David Beckham into the playoffs that they've awarded Team Lalas the first ever 1-1 "win" in league history. Readers may recall this isn't the first time The Red Bull have been the unlucky recipients of creative "reporting" as only the valiant efforts of MetroFanatic prevented the league from excluding the Red Bull from their rightful place among squads who had indeed qualified for the MLS Playoffs. See Race for the MLS Cup Report.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    MLS Playoffs: Shoddy, Unprofessional Breakdown

    While shamefully smearing a 12-year-old accident victim, contemplating the latest attempt by The Man to destroy everything cool in the world, we thought, "Who's gonna grab the two remaining Major League Soccer Postseason Tourney slots?" So without creepy Tattoo, here's the Red Bull Rising Race for the MLS Cup Report, Part Trois. All information below is based on official data from the Playoff Standings page, which isn't always accurate, so just in case, check the MetroFanatic. Let's play!

    The Not-So-Fab-Four scrambling for the chance to get hammered by DC United or the winner of Saturday night's delicious Houston Dynamo-Chivas USA tilt, mercifully slated to be broadcast by Fox Soccer Channel, are the Chicago Fire (37 points), the Kansas Wizards (37 points), the Colorado Rapids (35 points) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (33 points, but two matches left). Or as we like to call them, Blanco and the Hunchbacks, Erratic Eddie Johnson and The Wiz, FC Size Matters at Dick's Park and Team Lalas. Excellent, subsidized views of the various permutations can be found here, here and here.

    Alternatively, here's our shoddy, unprofessional breakdown, flimsily based on the following criteria: Current form, Opponent, Personal whim, Oddsmakers, Underdog status and Telekinetic powers (cool!). Or The COP-OUT Factor, for short.

    Blanco and the Hunchbacks -- The Fire didn't help themselves by scheduling a tough match with Cruz Azul Wednesday, which they lost anyway, leaving just two days recovery time prior to their 0-0 draw at DC United on Saturday. Chicago has only won twice since the start of September, but on the plus side, they've only lost once in MLS play, as they've been kissing their sister like they're the Appalachia Fire (five ties). If Chicago beats the streaking Galaxy Sunday, (Telefutura), they're in, but don't bet on it. COP-OUT Factor: Miss playoffs.

    Erratic Eddie Johnson and The Wiz -- Kansas City has won just three MLS matches since the All-Star Break, including a brutal August (1-4) and bad September (1-3-2). Saturday night's loss to the Red Bulls was typically heartbreaking with two gaffes leading directly to Juan Pablo Angel goals and Erratic Eddie Johnson fluffing a PK attempt. FC Dallas doesn't have much to play for this weekend, so chalk that up as a positive for KC, and if you're really desperate for optimism, the Wizards have conjured up a single victory in the past two months, so if that spell holds, they're due for a win this weekend. COP-OUT Factor: Miss playoffs.

    FC Size Matters at Dick's Park -- Here's the thing: The Rapids ain't good. We love Pablo Mastroeni, but he's the only guy on the squad above average in any soccer-related category (great tackler). However, here's the good news: The thrilling victory over Chivas on Sunday was the Rapids second straight win and with hated regional rival Real Salt Lake coming to town this weekend, the heralded Rocky Mountain Cup is also on the line, which should have both fans and players pumped up at The Dick. Plus, way back on Sept. 18 Red Bull Rising, based on our highly-scientific, tirelessy researched (for over half-an-hour!) Puppy-to-Giant Ratio, predicted a Colorado postseason berth. COP-OUT Factor: Make playoffs.

    Team Lalas -- It's ALIVE! Despite being called a Lame Duck in August, Frank Yallop has went all Dr. Frankenstein on our ass, reanimating the lifeless tissue of the Team Lalas corpse and unleashing on Major League Soccer an ugly, rampaging atrocity that will JUST NOT DIE! But enough about the David Beckham hype. Let's get back to the playoff race. Los Angeles has won five straight and if they beat the Red Bull (already booked for New England) on Thursday they'll host Blanco and the Hunchbacks in a civilization-shattering clash of out-of-control egos, high-stakes confrontations and simmering ethnic tensions. But enough about TeleFutura broadcasting the match live, instead of Fox Soccer Channel or one of the Black Rat outlets. COP-OUT Factor: Make playoffs.

    Race for the MLS Cup Report Archive: Part One | Part Deux

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Red Bull Attack Sparks Revolution Showdown

    Juan Pablo Angel, Jozy Altidore, Dane Richards and Francis Grandpa Doe all started on Saturday night and produced the desired result: The Red Bull outscored the Kansas City Wizards 2-1. With the victory, The Red Bull put a hex on the Wizards postseason chances, and set the stage for a tantalizing Major League Soccer first-round playoff matchup with the New England Revolution. Get Your Tickets Now!

    To his credit, Bruce Arena decorated the FakeTurf at the Meadowlands with his best available offensive players and the aforementioned four didn't disappoint as Angel did what he does, score goals, while Altidore, Richards and Granpda challenged and pestered and threatened the Wizards all night. That's what we're talkin' 'bout.

    Angel initiated his first strike with a neat pass to the increasingly effective overlapping Big Easy, Dave van den Bergh, whose cross was handled in the box by ill-fated Wizard fullback Jose Burciaga Jr. Angel promptly buried his fifth PK in as many MLS attempts, hopefully putting to rest the irrelevant, lazy, "He had trouble taking PKs at Villa" talking point trotted out everytime the Classy Colombian approaches the spot before beating the goalkeeper.

    Rookie speedster Dane Richards happily accepted Burciaga's second gift of the first half on the right wing and decided to Pay it Forward (Worst Movie Ever Candidate), squaring to Angel at the edge of the box for a sublime outside-of-the-right-foot settle and inside-of-the-same-foot finish past KC's Bad Hairdo Keeper Kevin Hartman. True the Wizards managed a quickfire Jack Jewsbury head-flick tally immediately after the spot kick, but when Grandpa flashed a strong header just inches too high and then clanged one off the crossbar right before intermission it was clear this would be a Red Bull night.

    Thankfully, Arena wasn't content with offensive tinkering, recalling Carlos Mendes and Hunter Freeman at the expense of Chris Leitch (with Seth Stammler stepping into the suspended Joe Vide role) and extending a second act to none other than Carol Burnett Show legend Tim Conway, who earned a curtain call with six saves, including a nice PK stoning of Erratic Eddie Johnson. Plus, the addition of the Emmy-Award Winning Funnyman caused the cancellation of The Walrus Comedy Hour, which we can all agree jumped the shark several games ago.

    Hopefully, Bruce Almighty will allow this winning lineup to take on the Revs in the 2007 MLS Playoffs (we'd prefer Clint Mathis in front of Dema Kovalenko or a healthy Claudio Reyna in central midfield instead of Stammler or Vide, but we won't quibble ... for now). In fact, injuries aside, Arena should allow this squad the opportunity to face the streaking Galaxy (and Beckham?) on Thursday night.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Red Bull No-Brainer: Beat KC, Bring On Revs!

    The blogosphere is bubbling with Red Bull playoff talk. Big Apple Soccer handicaps the possibilities, including Captain America's first-round California Dreamin'. MetroFanatic, fresh off some fine pro bono work for, ponders the pitfalls amidst the New England foliage. Channeling Dwight K. Schrute, The Kin of Fish advocates a mercy-killing. How does the Red Bull look, Kin? "Really dead."

    Here's an alternative theory: The Red Bull should hammer the Wizards on Saturday, setting up a first-round matchup with the New England Revolution, the path of least resistance to the MLS Cup Final.

    How so, you ask? Look here and here. DC United is a better team than New England. True, the Red Bull went 1-2 against DC and 0-2-1 vs. the Revs, but upon closer inspection the Flinty New Englanders are a much preferable opponent for our Heroes of the East Rutherford FakeTurf than the Taxation Without Representation Squad.

    Red Bull vs. The Revs: In the first game, back on July 14, both Clint Mathis and Juan Pablo Angel hit the woodwork in a tight 1-nil loss. In the second match, Carol Burnett Show legend Tim Conway played nets for the Red Bull in a hilarious, but largely self-inflicted 2-1 defeat. The final regular season clash, on Sept. 22, was a terrific 2-2 draw which indicated the two clubs were evenly matched.

    Red Bull vs. DC United: On June 10, Ben Olsen's Beard was too thick and manly for the Red Bull, who succumbed in a 4-2 drubbing. Right around the All-Star Break, the Red Bull got revenge with a 1-nil victory, but the two squads reverted to form on Aug. 22, as Jaime Moreno became Major League Soccer's leading scorer in a thorough 3-1 win over the Jozy Altidore-less Red Bull.

    In summary, who would you rather face, a surging DC United team undefeated in league play since July 22, or a up-and-down New England squad with four MLS losses during the same period? It's a no-brainer for the Red Bull. Beat Kansas City on Saturday night and bring on the Revs.

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    What's Bruce Arena Smoking?

    OK, you're one game from clinching a playoff spot, playing in a market where the biggest pro sports collapse ever just happened, and you haven't won a match in a month. One positive you've had going for you, however, has been the stellar play of a dynamic newcomer, who has scored a goal in each of your past two games. So, what do you do? Well, if you're Bruce Arena, YOU BENCH HIM!!!!

    Consequently, The Red Bull dropped a terrible 2-1 decision to woeful but feisty Toronto FC on Thursday night, squandering another chance to secure a playoff spot and potentially blowing the opportunity to avoid facing DC United in the first round of the MLS postseason, instead of the newly minted US Open Cup Champion, but still, objectively, less formidable, New England Revolution.

    Did the exclusion of Francis "Grandpa" Doe from the starting lineup in itself condemn the Red Bull to defeat? Of course not. There were many factors in the loss: Joe Vide caught ball-watching on the first goal and his subsequent ejection, Ronald Wattereus flopping like a fish on Red Bull reject Marvell Wynne's second goal-providing cross, knocked in by an increasingly hapless Chris Leitch (yes, Leitch is indeed without hap). Additionally, at least according to the telecast, the 20,000 frenzied fans at BMO Field didn't hurt the Mo-Jo (see what we did there?) of our Great White North neighbors.

    What we're suggesting is that Mr. Bruce Arena is either higher than Fat Rush on Hillbilly Heroin or he's chokin' like a dry drunk on a pretzel. And remember folks, we're not second-guessing here, way back in May we addressed Arena's disturbing propensity for safe (ie. defensive) lineups, when he should actually be embracing the Red Bull Rising If You Play Them, They Will Score Theory, spiritually, if not literally, supported by the great Johan Cruyff.

    Here's the deal: With Reyna out (yawn), Arena went defensive against Toronto, playing two defensive midfielders (Vide and Dema Kovalenko) along with his recently favored flatback four (Leitch, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler and The Big Easy, Dave van den Bergh, a revelation at left back). Rookie Dane Richards (nice goal) and Clint Mathis (okay game) were then tasked with providing all the creative spark behind Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel, who proved he was human on Thursday by not scoring a goal.

    Put aside for a moment that Hope Solo would probably be an upgrade over The Walrus and Tim Conway and that Hunter S. Thompson, nevermind Hunter Freeman, would be preferable to Leitch. If your goal is positive, creative, attractive, winning soccer the midfield should be Dema as your defender/destroyer and The Cletus as your attacker/creator, with speed merchant Richards on the right and Grandpa cutting in from the left (already ably manned by the overlapping Big Easy) and hooking up with Clint behind Jozy and JPA.

    The Red Bull can still clinch this weekend if both Columbus and Team Lalas lose (Is David Beckham really back? Stay tuned). But with just two games to play and either DC United or The Revs likely on tap, the time to go into a defensive shell and grind out victories has past. Put the most talented Red Bulls on the pitch and play The Beautiful Game, because Thursday night was Ugly Brucie in Primetime.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Angel Scores, Walrus Flaws, Red Bull Draws

    Juan Pablo Angel scored, Ronald Wattereus left fans muttering, "Where's Tim Conway?" and the Red Bull recorded it's third straight draw on Saturday night, a 2-2 decision which flattered the visitors from Real Salt Lake. Luckily for the Red Bull, serial sister-kissing is not a crime in Major League Soccer, and another terrible loss by the Kansas City Wizards preserved a three-point Red Bull advantage in the MLS Playoff Standings Table.

    The match itself was exciting, if not particularly well played. RSL opened the scoring against the run of play when Ronald Wattereus inexplicably chose not to try and stop Chris Brown's downward header off the wretched Meadowlands FakeTurf. Evidently, if an overlapping fullback nods the ball into the ground, The Walrus Rules mandate a strict hands-off policy by the opposing goalkeeper. Who knew?

    Grandpa Francis Doe went Old School after the break, employing a killer, Georgey Best-like crossover/far post combo to knot the score, before Kyle Beckerman, a dead-ringer for True Romance villain Drexl Spivey, neatly redirected a Fabian Espindola pass for a 2-1 RSL lead. Despite an uncharacteristically wasteful night, Juan Pablo Angel Just Scores Goals, so the Red Bull blushes were once again spared by the Classy Colombian's no-doubt-about-it PK which finished the match.

  • There Goes Claudio -- One week after playing his best game ever as a Red Bull, captain Claudio Reyna limped off the field with a reported left toe injury. At this point, who knows when he'll return -- and more importantly, which Reyna will return: The effective, influential player who dominated the tempo against the Revolution last week, or the ... err ... um ... other guy? If it's the former, cool. The latter, let's pull a Beckham and shut it down for the season.

  • Big Love -- Roman Grant's favorite club has endured quite the season, with poster boy Freddy Adu and designated scapegoat John Ellinger banished from The Compound, and the Real faithful starting anew under the tutelage of Jason Kreis, Superstar! The aforementioned Spivey-lookalike, Esky The Younger and Team Lalas escapee Robbie Findlay are legit American talents. Sprinkle in a few creative, rambunctious Argentines and you have the makings of an interesting squad in the Land of Brigham Young.

  • Simple Answer to Simple Question -- Last week we wondered how Mexican fans would welcome Chicago Fire talisman, whiner, hunchback Blanco to Los Angeles. Well, according to Martin Rogers "El Cuau," who scored a cracker of a free-kick in a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA, was met by "missiles ... hurled onto the pitch, one of them striking Blanco on the hip." (Hat Tip to du Nord) Alrighty then. Asked and answered. Luis Arroyave's The Red Card has more on the Fire-Chivas USA match.