Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Flame out! Red Hot Bulls fizzle to Stone Cold Bulls
by Paul Gardner, April 16th, 2012 12:54AM
Subscribe to SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner

TAGS:  mls, new york red bulls


By Paul Gardner

Exactly what it is about the Red Bulls -- to say nothing of their virtually forgotten ancestors the MetroStars -- that enables them to look one day like a promising, if not formidable team, and then turn, almost overnight, into a pathetic scrambling muddle, I can't even begin to work out.

We’ve been watching these repeated transmogrifications for nigh on 17 years now and no plausible explanation has so far surfaced. This weekend, the shift from Red Bulls to Dead Bulls happened with baffling rapidity.

The Bulls’ first half against the San Jose Earthquakes was not exactly stellar, but it had plenty of good soccer in it. They got a nice early goal -- in the fifth minute -- from Kenny Cooper, scored off a neat assist from Thierry Henry. And Dax McCarty later hit a second.

There was, of course, the complication that on each occasion, the Quakes were able to tie the score. Their goals looked pretty good to me, well worked, well taken, by Rafael Baca and, of course, the pesky Chris Wondolowski.

So it was 2-2 at the half, but the Red Bulls looked the more dangerous, the more incisive team, and I’d have put money on them to rather easily control the second half. Particularly as the Quakes lost two starters to injury -- neither center back Victor Bernardez nor midfielder Shea Salinas came out for the second half. More about Salinas’ injury in a moment.

Whatever Coach Hans Backe, or Thierry Henry, or whoever it is who spouts off in the Bulls’ locker room these days, said at halftime, it worked like a performance-deflating drug.

Suddenly the Bulls looked apathetic, uninterested, unable to possess the ball, incapable of putting together anything that looked like a dangerous passing move. Some of the “passing” out of the back -- by Stephen Keel and Markus Holgersson particularly -- was inexcusably, and consistently, awful. Henry gave us, not for the first time, his excellent rendition of the Invisible Man.

Postgame, Backe admitted “it was not one of our best performances.” Oh dear, how many times have we heard variations on that line from a whole succession of MetroStar/Red Bull coaches? The defense, said Backe, that was the problem. Not very good. Maybe that could be blamed on the absence of the injured Wilman Conde. But not really. Backe chose the two center backs who played -- in particular he brought in this season the Swede Holgersson, who simply does not look up to the job.

Henry told us, in rather arrogant fashion (a posture that he seems to enjoy) that he had seen all this coming, that he had warned “the other day, if you let a team like San Jose have the opportunities they’re going to punish you.” A pretty meaningless statement, really. Why wouldn’t San Jose -- or any other team -- punish you for playing like crap? But when Henry stopped trying to impress with his foresight, he came sharply to the point: “You have to give credit to San Jose. We didn’t touch the ball in the second half.”

In fact, San Jose let the Bulls off the hook, by playing too conservatively in the second half. The game was there for them to win -- they shunned the opportunity against a palpably jittery Red Bull defense.

But I think Backe and Henry are wrong to pin all the blame on the defense. Fact is, the Red Bulls only have a working midfield when Henry decides to play. When he evaporates, when serious midfield duties fall on the shoulders of a journeyman player like Dax McCarty, such an arrangement can only exaggerate the inadequacies of Keel and Holgersson behind him.

Next Sunday the Bulls -- either Red or Dead, we won’t know until they start moving about on the field -- will take on D.C. United. And they may well have further defensive problems by then. Surely the newly hyper-active MLS Disciplinary Committee will take severe action against Rafa Marquez and suspend him for his wanton assault on Salinas -- which knocked the San Jose player out of the game with a fractured collar bone. How referee Ricardo Salazar missed Rafa’s brutal bear hug on Salinas as he brought him crashing to the ground defies belief.

Such a suspension would seem to satisfy a demand for justice, a desire that Marquez not be allowed to get away scot-free. It would do that, certainly. But this use of a sort of Star Chamber to re-referee games after they’ve been played raises some tricky questions. It will do nothing for the confidence of the referees if they are expected to become accustomed to seeing their judgments and decisions altered, even overturned by in cameradecisions.

Nor, one expects, will it encourage referees to be decisive if they know that the final word on calling fouls is not theirs, but belongs instead to a committee looking leisurely at slow motion replays.

The danger is that such an arrangement cannot persist for too long before the caliber of referees will be judged solely on the extent of their agreement, or disagreement, with the Disciplinary Committee’s decisions. Which will make it starkly clear that the referees’ decisions are of secondary importance. Not a desirable situation.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: April 16, 2012 at 9:46 a.m.
    Well put Paul. The Red Bull seem to have a dysfunctional mentality at game time. How Ballouchy, i.e., starts is quite laughable; a player of marginal skill, no speed/stamina, slouch on defense and no soccer IQ. He's only one of several on the squad meeting such criteria. As for Ref Salazar, he is either blind or totally incompetent. He let the goonery go in the first half witnessed by several Quake elbows to the face and repeated corner kick mayhem by Marquez went unpunished. Salazar has a history of incompetence and why the MLS continues to employ him remains a mystery..
  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: April 19, 2012 at 7:55 a.m.
    Salazar was too busy admiring himself to notice the players around him.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner
Violent Goalkeeping (Part 2): FIFA must radically rethink the goalkeeper's role    
Last time, I asked: "What action has soccer taken to at least reduce the incidence of ...
Violent Goalkeeping (Part 1): Players at risk as soccer ignores its own rules    
Goalkeepers, we are told, need protection. No doubt we all agree. Up to a point.
The triumphant return of Bruce Arena    
Well, take that Jurgen Klinsmann. Never at any time during his five years in charge of ...
MLS games compare well with EPL but referees in both leagues reluctant to call PKs    
During this past weekend, I watched -- on television, of course -- 15 games. Well, not ...
Of tattoos and voodoo and science ... and soccer    
My calendar says March 1. But, quite possibly, global warming has advanced things. The weather is ...
Suddenly, the sport itself rebels against low-scoring Scrooge soccer    
We haven't seen anything like this for quite a while. In fact it was beginning to ...
Pep snubs Kun -- modern soccer at its worst    
Back in 2005 the word from Argentina was that maybe -- of course maybe -- a ...
Where soccer fails, the NFL gets it right    
An impertinent book, this. The title and subtitle tell you succinctly what you are getting: "The ...
More urgent than Van Basten's rule changes: soccer needs a total reversal of referees' negative mindset    
The problem is this. To praise Marco van Basten for speaking out on a topic that ...
Clearance: an ugly play, a useless stat     
For some time now I have been wondering about the soccer term "clearance." A term, admittedly, ...
>> SoccerTalk with Paul Gardner Archives