The most successful coach this season for the moribund Red Bulls? Easy. Richie Williams, in a landslide.
As the interim coach after replacing Mo Johnston (2-3-7) in late June,
Williams went 3-3-2, and all of those losses were road games.
Bruce Arena is getting props for guiding RBNY into the postseason, but if
anything, his influence has been benign at best.
When Arena officially took over after the All-Star break, the Red Bulls were
5-6-9 and in third place. They finished a hardly scintillating 9-11-12 and in
fourth, and needed to beat Kansas City, 3-2, in a nail-biting regular-season
finale to accomplish the feat.
Under Arena, RBNY went 4-5-3 and actually lost ground, relatively speaking, to
the other Eastern Conference teams chasing a spot. New England (6-2-2) and
Chicago (8-4-1) ran stronger and straighter down the stretch.
New York did close the gap, sort of, on D.C. United. As of the break, D.C. led
the Eastern Conference with a 13-2-6 record and 45 points, 21 points ahead of
RBNY. United went 2-5-4 to finish 15-7-10 with 55 points; with 39 points, Team
Arena trailed the leader by just 16.
REF WATCH. The Red Bulls were awarded two penalty kicks by referee
Ricardo Salazar in the decisive match against Kansas City, but neither
were as tainted as Wizards fans and television announcers, who are really cut
from the same cloth, would have you believe.
On penalty number one, Chris Henderson cleverly reversed his dribble just
inside the penalty area and when right back Ryan Raybould lunged in,
Henderson nicked the ball away and went down while absorbing the contact.
Because no replay was shown from behind the goal - a glaring deficiency on most
league telecasts that hopefully can remedied as soon as possible - determining
whether Raybould made any contact with the ball was difficult. But he went for
the ball very late from a bad position.
Why did interim coach Brian Bliss decided to start a developmental player
with eight games' experience in such an important game? "It was a risk, but
aside from the foul, he didn't play that bad," said Bliss. "He had played there
in three straight games. I could have started Shavar [Thomas] in
the middle with Jimmy [Conrad] and moved Nick [Garcia]
out there but Nick has had issues out wide this season as well."
On the second penalty, Marvell Wynne rolled past Jose Burciaga Jr. down the right flank into the penalty area. Burciaga never drew even with the Red Bull's powerful rookie, and when Wynne tried to turn the corner a few yards
from the end line, Burciaga extended his right arm and shoved him off the ball
while not coming close to playing the ball. Clear penalty.
The red card to Garcia for grabbing John Wolyniec as he went through with
three minutes left could have been interpreted differently, but Wolyniec did
have a clear path to goal and the only other defender in the vicinity was yards
away and level with Wolyniec and Garcia. The rules stipulate any clear
goalscoring opportunity denied by a foul is to be punished by a red card, and in
any case, Garcia risked far too much by committing a careless foul with the
season on the line.