Cahill won't solve Red Bulls' style problem

By Paul Gardner

It surely cannot be too long before the attraction wears off these tedious and astonishingly over-priced summer exhibition games. I've just finished watching Tottenham beat the Red Bulls, 2-1, a thoroughly insipid game that was supposed to -- well, I'm not sure what it was supposed to do, apart from make money for the promoters.

Spurs didn’t put too much effort into this one. They didn’t have to, because the Red Bulls played with their customary lack of style and precision. That has been the way the Red Bulls have always played. As it happens, it was the way the MetroStars played before them. Always a team without a style. Seventeen years of formless soccer, players running around, often energetically, usually to no avail.

That takes in scores, though it seems like thousands, of players and a dozen coaches, and it’s never really worked. Ah, I just recalled -- one of the points about this semi-inert friendly against Spurs was to show off the Red Bulls’ new signing, midfielder Tim Cahill from Everton -- a DP no less.

That, too, turned into a non-event, though he did manage to get himself knocked down and gain the penalty that gave the Bulls their only goal. Other than that, Cahill looked a tired player -- maybe that makes sense, considering it’s been some two months since his last game with Everton.

On the ESPN telecast, Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman struggled mightily to infuse some excitement, or at least interest, into this yawner. They did mention that Cahill’s signing was something of a surprise. Well, yes and no. A surprise in that during the Red Bulls’ long search for another DP, Cahill’s name had never been mentioned. But definitely not a surprise if they mean it was unexpected. Unexpected is what these Red Bulls -- particularly since 2010 under coach Hans Backe -- are best at.

Predicting Red Bull moves related to player acquisition or dismissal is a waste of time because there is rarely any evidence of careful thought or methodical team-building. The Red Bull modus operandi seems to be merely to decide -- suddenly -- that a certain type of player, say a forward or a goalkeeper, is urgently needed, and to rush off and buy whoever happens to be available. Or -- even more chaotic -- to purchase a player merely because he happens to be available.

It was rumored that the Bulls were after Kaka. Oh, really? A genuine play-making ball-artist, and a Brazilian at that, being sought by Backe and the Bulls? I’ll take a lot of convincing on that one.

When it comes to scouting, to looking around to find out who is available, it cannot be said that the Bulls exactly exert themselves. Kaka, for sure, is way beyond their horizons. Backe, who is Swedish, along with Sporting Director Erik Soler and assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen (both of whom are Norwegian) rely heavily on their contacts back in Scandinavia. So we have a nice smorgasbord of players for you, Markus Holgersson (Sweden), Teemu Tainio (Finland), Jan Gunnar Solli (Norway), Victor Palsson (Iceland) and Joel Lindpere (Estonia, which I judge to be nearly Scandinavia). And how about this -- you can add in the Costa Rican Roy Miller (who played in Norway for four years) and Jonathan Borrajo (with one year in the Norwegian second division).

Four of those players were regulars on the Red Bulls last year and showed pretty clearly that they are average players at best. Worse, they are -- apart from the occasional burst from Lindpere -- routine, non-exciting players. Yet Backe persists with the Scando connection -- just this week comes an announcement that the club has signed defender Babajide Ogunbiyi --- he’s American but, you’ll never guess, comes direct from a short stint with a Danish club.

In between all those signings there was the disaster of bringing in -- as a DP -- German goalkeeper Frank Rost, who did absolutely nothing for the Red Bulls and left as soon as the 2011 season was over. And the offloading of the young Juan Agudelo whose main problem -- and I’m not joking here -- may have been simply that he is not Scandinavian. Plus the hopelessly bungled signing and then trading, of Dwayne De Rosario.

De Rosario was the one signing amongst that frenzy of unfocused activity who would have brought what the Bulls do not have, have never had: a midfielder to build a team round, a playmaker, a regista as the Italians have it.

Maybe that role should belong to Thierry Henry, but he has shown little inclination to want it. Cahill is not the man for that job either. If we are to be condemned to a midfield in which Cahill and Dax McCarty pull the strings, then we’re in for more style-less helter-skelter.

None of which is to say that you can’t win games that way. The Bulls, on the strength of Henry’s goals, have already done so quite a few times this season. But you cannot rely on the Bulls, ever. The latest loss, to the Montreal Impact, typified just how disorganized a team without a firm playing style can get.

There is the added awkwardness that the Red Bulls continue to call themselves a New York team. A New York team without some sort of style? Frankly, in soccer terms, it’s difficult to conjure up an image of anything less New York than Backe’s Scando-based Bulls.

11 comments about "Cahill won't solve Red Bulls' style problem".
  1. Jogo Bonito, August 1, 2012 at 4:03 a.m.

    Living here in NJ and dreaming of the day that RedBull gives up on the soccer thing. In my dream they pack up and leave nothing but that amazing stadium. Then I take over and build a team that the people here can relate to. The players will either be from this area or look like they're from the area. I have lived here my whole life and I've never met a local Norweigen or Swede (that part is not a dream). I would try to get players that people would pay to see. Players the have pride and skill. Players that can smile and compete hard. Players who's dream is to play here in NY and NJ.

  2. Lou vulovich, August 1, 2012 at 4:59 a.m.

    Could not agree more with Paul Gardner, about Red Bulls unfortunately most of the MLS seems to play the same style, boring, skill less soccer. Not only does the NY, management not understand football, but the MLS, does not seem to understand that they need to develop a more attractive game with more skill and individual flair with young players not 35 to 50 year olds, NASL. Keep up the pressure Paul, maybe someone will listen. To bad you did not warn the English FA, about Swedish coaches before Erickson destroyed the best generation of English footballers ever. Good Job Paul.

  3. JORGE PIMIENTA, August 1, 2012 at 7:34 a.m.

    Amen !! Finally for the last 3 years from section 226 I been screaming my lungs out over this coach. We have no style, no communication, we let go a young fwd, who was never giving a chance. We let go of Rosario who ever sense i saw him played in Houston I always wished we had him here. Like jogo bonito said so much raw talent near by.....i would ask the Redbull coach to please one day put on his walking shoes and please go to the Harrison courts, Inbound stadium, or any local park to see the gold mine he is sitting on, that's only the nearby parks. If he would just travel around new jersey and new york and actually give these young kids a fair chance !! I might not be a professional soccer coach, but i know soccer and at the games i wish i had a pillow sometimes.

  4. Jogo Bonito, August 1, 2012 at 10:21 a.m.

    Jorge speaks for so many NY/NJ fans. Soler and Backe would much rather fly the RedBull private jet to Norway every other week and find medicore players that have the "look" he's comfortable with - sickening.

    Jorge deserves a lot of credit for his 3 years of loyalty. I went a few times and have no interest in returning. It's just unwatchable soccer.

  5. Richard Romer, August 1, 2012 at 10:39 a.m.

    I have almost always agreed with Paul's insight and analysis. Again I agree 100%. I was at the game last night heading down from Albany, NY. A preseason Hotspur team made the red bulls look like a bunch of amateurs. I was a VIP ticket holder last year making the trip to Harrison 5 times. After seeing the horrible direction that the team was going, and the lack of vision and direction from the front office, I could not renew. The dream of Jogo Bonito is right on! Now watching Brazil destroy New Zealand on TV. Hey Hans, take some notes. You will see what real soccer is supposed to be played like!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Richard Leonard, August 1, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.

    I am still scratching my head over the DeRo "thing".

  7. Ramon Creager, August 1, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.

    Every DCU fan is eternally grateful for the De Ro fiasco. Which reminds me: NYRB weren't the only ones to trade him that year; TFC did as well. Another messed up club.

  8. Kent James, August 1, 2012 at 4:07 p.m.

    I sympathize with all the NYRB fans, and surely don't understand how the NYRB could let go both DeRosario and Agudelo, but since the NYRB currently lead the Eastern Conference (and are 2nd overall in goals scored), I wouldn't hold your breath for a coaching change.

  9. Joe Linzner, August 2, 2012 at 12:05 p.m.

    As is the practice in England NY is bying a winningg team and coaching is secondary,. Backe is a Holzhacker style coach and lacks any sort style and imagination. Toothless and boring soccer. There are a few teams that play attractive soccer in MLs but NY sadly is not among those....

  10. beautiful game, August 2, 2012 at 2:24 p.m.

    Problem is that the RB lack enough quality players with soccer brains. Their chemistry is uneven. For example, Miller is a total liability on defense and Solli works hard but rarely executes. It all comes down to having a soccer brain meshed with technical skills and such players are virtually too few..

  11. ricardo mercader, October 6, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.

    the management of red bulls may be they do not like soccer. This coach and his helpers they have no clue about today soccer. Why they don't go to south america and check the futbol over there.
    They keep changing player instead of changing the coach. Get an argentinian coach, keep the same players for a season and youll see the difernce.

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