If there really is no place like home, the New York Red Bulls are in for an awfully long summer.
With seven out of their next nine upcoming games on the road, the Red Bulls finished off a four game home stand with a whimper, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Rapids at Giants Stadium Saturday night. Conor Casey enhanced his reputation as a Red Bulls killer, notching a goal in each half, with Mehdi Ballouchy slotting home a penalty kick which proved the eventual winner.
Juan Pablo Angel tallied his fourth goal of the season for the home side on a first half penalty kick. It was also his free kick that was cleaned up by second half substitute Danleigh Borman after being spilled by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
It was a typical, hard fought English-style victory for Gary Smith’s side that left New York Red Bulls manager Juan Carlos Osorio more exasperated than impressed.
“There wasn’t too (much) sophistication in the game,” said Osorio after the game. “It was about getting it wide, putting it into our box and compete for the aerial ball.”
“Obviously, we didn’t defend it well…and we were harshly punished for it.”
New York certainly started the match brightly enough, however, and Angel will certainly rue his gilt-edged chance that fell to him in the first minute on a long cross from left back Alfredo Pacheco. Macoumba Kandji was finding room early as well, roaming behind the strikers at will and finding space.
The visitors quickly adjusted, however, as Colorado skipper Pablo Mastroeni and Nick LaBrocca began to occupy the early lanes the Red Bulls were finding. By the 20 minute mark they had wrested control of the midfield and the game, and Colin Clark’s 25th minute cross, a looping, searching far post effort, was superbly headed in the net by an unmarked Casey.
“Casey’s a great player,” said New York defender Kevin Goldthwaite. “You’ve got Brian Ching, Brian McBride…Casey’s one of those guys.”
For all the attention Casey should have been drawing, the Rapids were still looking for him at every opportunity. After initiating a counter attack with excellent hold up play, he nearly got on the end of another Clarke cross in the 38th minute.
The Red Bulls clawed their way back into the game by halftime though, as Corey Gibbs was whistled for what appeared to be a soft penalty on Dane Richards. The Jamaican had been played into the box by Angel and went to the turf to the dismay of players and coaching staff alike.
Angel coolly dispatched the penalty and the Red Bulls went to the locker room certainly feeling like they were in the running for all three points.
Almost beyond belief, it took Casey just under three minutes to get free again and give Colorado a lead they would not relinquish. Omar Cummings lashed in a hard cross across the six yard box, and an unmarked Casey glanced a header to the far post that left Jon Conway flat footed.
The goal was Casey’s 6th in his last two games at the Meadowlands, and even he was at a loss for why he had so much space.
“I can’t tell you why,” said Casey of his Big Apple goalscoring tear. “I just know that both games, I had a lot of opportunities and a good deal of space.”
After Casey’s second tally, Colorado’s physical midfield play and disciplined shape began to squeeze the life out of the game. The climb looked insurmountable after Albert Celades tripped up Cummings at the very corner of the penalty area.
“I personally feel it was a tough decision to swallow,” said Osorio, clearly reflecting the feelings of most of the twelve thousand plus in attendance.
New York did make a game of it evntually, adding Borman to the fray and pushing Kandji to the front line. The Senegalese had spent much of the game roaming in the midfield, but his slashing runs at Colorado defender Scott Palguta troubled the Rapids to the point where the defender was pulled 10 minutes from time.
After Borman’s 73rd minute goal, the Red Bulls had one chance to equalize through the dangerous Kandji, but the Rapids defense, as they were most of the night, were quick to pounce and snuff out the danger.
The loss leaves New York at 2-3-2 and rooted to the bottom of the table in the Eastern Conference They are now in serious danger of completely falling out of the race earlier than is usual in MLS, with a brutal road schedule looming.
“We are in a very difficult situation right now,” said Celades. “We were hoping to to obtain more than four points while we were at home…now we have to get those points away from home.”
Player Ratings (scale of 1-10 with 10 being best)
Conway – 5 – Nobody questions his shot stopping. But a goalkeeper who isn’t confident on crosses is in for a long night against this Rapids side.
Goldthwaite – 6 – Lost Casey on the second goal, but was typically solid most of the night. His inexperience at the position showed through at key times.
Petke – 5 – Fared well against McBride last week, dominated Kamara the week before, but was absolutely abused by Conor Casey tonight. Lost him on the first goal, and was beaten for easily 75% of aerials challenges, and was powerless when Casey had the ball with his back to goal.
Pacheco – 6 – Solid enough on defense, but didn’t have Terry Cooke to deal with. Lacks teeth going forward, and Osorio wasted no time pulling him to spark the attack.
Hall – 5 – The rookie was mostly solid on defense, but was specifically called out by his manager for allowing Colin Clarke the space to deliver several crosses. Gets forward repeated at the right times, only to be ignored by his teammates. Needs to start demanding the ball perhaps?
Celades – 6 – Struggled at times with the physical Rapids midfield. But his class shows at times, and perhaps he’ll take more of an assertive leadership role as the season wears on.
Stammler – 8 – MOTM match for NY in a losing effort. His distribution and comfort on the ball have improved to the point where you don’t even notice his motor…which is still superb.
Ubiparipovich – 6 – Looks quite dangerous, but is sorely lacking the instinct for the final ball. Needs to start getting on the score sheet in support of Angel and Kandji.
Kandji – 7 – Looked lively in the first 15 minutes before Pablo Mastoreni decided to show him the ropes. Pushed higher up the field late in the game, and perhaps should have been there the whole time. How often do you see a central defender get abused to the point where he gets pulled 10 minutes from time while his team nurses a lead?
Richards – 5 – So much speed but so little craft around the net. Was unable to work well in the midfield with Hall, but he’d better learn if he wants to stay in the lineup, because Kandji is far superior attacking the goal.
Angel – 5 – Disappointing for the Colombian. His free kick led to the goal, but he wasted several others late in the game shooting from near impossible angles. A physical centerback can take him out of the game, and Cory Gibbs was more than up to the task.
Sassano – 5 – Anonymous.
Borman – 7 – Quite lively, and is showing improved vision as he approaches goal. Opportunistic goal.
Wolyniec – 6 – Knocked down several balls late, and nearly helped Kandji create an equalizer. Supersub duty seems to suit him.