The New York Red Bulls wasted no time getting on the scoresheet Saturday, with Macoumba Kandji netting the team’s first goal of the 2009 season after just two minutes. It would be all the Red Bulls needed to beat Real Salt Lake, though Juan Pablo Angel added a second goal in the 57th minute. The win is New York’s first of the 2009 campaign, to go with two draws and two losses.
The Red Bulls locker room was all smiles after the game. “Today I think it was a great performance,” said Angel, the team’s captain. “Everyone played a part today.”
Head coach Juan Carlos Osorio echoed Angel’s sentiments. “Very pleased with the performance tonight,” he said. “I think when you have the commitment that we showed today plus the clinical finishing–I think we showed signs of a good team.”
The Red Bulls controlled the tempo most of the first half. Partly shellshocked by the early goal, partly uninspired, partly crowded by the Red Bulls pressure, RSL was unable to get its way into the game. Real head coach Jason Kreis said he was “unhappy with the first 45 minutes for sure.” It was the fourth time in as many games the Salt Lake City side had a lackluster first half. “We’ve got to find a way to get these guys to come out and play in the first half the way they do in the second half,” said Kreis.
RSL’s best chance came five minutes after the restart. Javier Morales played the ball through to Yura Movsisyan, whose shot was deflected and bound for the Red Bulls’ net before Kevin Goldthwaite slid and cleared it off the line in an acrobatic move. It was quite possibly a game-saving move by Goldthwaite, as the goal would have tied the game and surely given the visitors momentum.
Instead, the game turned into a New York success story–not only (by far) the team’s best performance of the season, but a sign the Red Bulls can by all means factor in the Eastern Conference race.
“I had a good feeling we were going to start getting goals this game,” said Kandji, whose premonition obviously didn’t take long to materialize. Of his second-minute tally, the Senegalese forward said “Very nice. I was right there, just like we talked about in practice with Juan Pablo [Angel] going near post [while] I sit and wait and that’s what I did and it paid off.”
Kandji had an integral part in the second goal as well, playing a nifty one-two with Angel, who buried it to the far post on his second touch. The goal effectively put the game out of reach for RSL, though they did get a man advantage when Red Bulls right back Jeremy Hall received a straight red card for a late tackle on Will Johnson. “I tried to get to it. I was a little late but I was going for the ball,” Hall recalled afterwards. “I don’t know if it was a red but…unlucky.” The dismissal means Hall will miss New York’s next game, Thursday night at Kansas City.
RSL put the Red Bulls under some pressure but were not able to create many real chances. Those that did get through were handled by New York’s goalkeeper…
“I thought we had a good performance from front to back,” said Jon Conway, who was seeing his first action after sitting out a 10-game suspension dating back to last season’s positive drug test. Asked how it felt to return to the field after such a long absence, Conway said “no different than any game I ever played.” Unlike his ornery non-comments the first time he spoke to media this season, Conway admitted “it was difficult watching the games. I think anybody would say it’s tough for them to watch and sit there and not be excited or anticipate what’s going on in the game.” His return to the field, then, was all the more appeasing. “I was really happy being in the tunnel, hearing the crowd, walking out on the field I had a big smile on my face; I was just happy to be back playing.”
Not that Conway was entirely charming either. Asked if he felt rusty, Conway snapped “did I look rusty? I looked pretty good, didn’t I? So, I don’t think so.”
The newest Red Bull was everywhere Saturday night, not only supplying a steadying influence at left back but also delivering key balls upfield. His coach said this service, more than anything, contributed to the team finally finding the back of the net. “I said that we would improve if the service would come from other places–and it did,” said Osorio. “The distribution from the back we are improving substantially.”
The El Salvador international himself, speaking through an interpreter, said he felt “very comfortable” his first time out and was pleased with the quality of his teammates. “We had good communication, which made everything easier,” he said of his backline mates. Pacheco was in such good spirits he would not even criticize the infamous Giants Stadium field turf when given a chance to, only saying it was a “quick surface” but that he would work hard to adapt to it.
Pacheco will get a first chance next weekend against the team’s archrival from the nation’s capital. First, though, New York travels to Kansas City’s natural grass field to take on the Wizards, Thursday night on ESPN2.
Real Salt Lake 0, New York Red Bulls 2, April 18, 2009 – Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
NY: Kandji 1 (unassisted) 2’
NY: Angel 1 (Kandji 1) 57’
RSL: Morales (caution) 42’
RSL: Russell (caution) 49’
NY: Hall (red card, ejection) 66’
NY: Richards (caution) 69’
Real Salt Lake (2-2-0, 6 pts.): Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, David Horst (Luis Miguel Escalada 65’), Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers, Clint Mathis (Ned Grabavoy 82’), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Yura Movsisyan, Robbie Findley (Andy Williams 78’)
Substitutes not used: Kyle Reynish, Tony Beltran, Jean Alexandre, Raphael Cox
New York Red Bulls (1-2-2, 5 pts.): Jon Conway, Alfredo Pacheco, Kevin Goldthwaite, Carlos Mendes, Jeremy Hall (ejected 66’), Khano Smith (Danleigh Borman 76’), Seth Stammler, Jorge Rojas, Dane Richards (John Wolyniec 86’), Macoumba Kandji, Juan Pablo Angel (Luke Sassano 61’)
Substitutes not used: Danny Cepero, Juan Pietravallo, Mike Petke, Dominic Oduro
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee’s Assistants: Sean Hurd, Claudio Badea
4th Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Man of the Match poll