Consistency is a hard thing to find around Major League Soccer this year, and the New York Red Bulls are a compelling argument against trying to predict anything. After a poor performance in a 2-0 road defeat at Colorado last week, few would've guessed that New York would brutalize the Eastern Conference leaders - but brutalize they did, dropping four goals on Montreal for a statement 4-0 victory.
The most complete performance so far in 2013. A back-and-forth battle was expected coming in, but Montreal's woes were exposed by a New York side that wanted to bounce back after getting hustled out of Colorado. New York pinned Montreal back with a hybrid attack, dominated the midfield, and smothered Montreal's counter attacks, never looking in any real danger. Goals from Eric Alexander, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, and Peguy Luyindula handed Montreal their biggest margin of defeat since joining MLS.
Eric Alexander channels Leo Messi. Since his acquisition before the season started, the Pittsburgh native hadn't exactly made a compelling argument as to why he's the best option on the right side of the midfield. But he made his case Saturday, taking an Henry pass from midfield all the way into the box, cutting around defenders, and perfectly placing a shot past Troy Perkins. About ten minutes later, he repeated the Messi impersonation - but his second attempt pinged off the crossbar. His performance was good enough to win Man Of The Match honors.
The defense has no trouble. even with Marco Di Vaio. The Italian striker is tied at the top of the Golden Boot race with 11 goals, and already has two to his name against NY this year. But centerback pairing of Holgersson and Olave shut him out of the game, allowing him only a single shot on goal. Brandon Barklage and Kosuke Kimura both put in a strong shift on the flanks, and Luis Robles had 4 saves for his seventh clean sheet of the season. The only heart-stopping moment came when Di Vaio appeared to have headed home a goal in the second half, only to have the goal disallowed for offsides.
Thierry Henry gives Peguy Luyindula a classy gift. The Red Bulls were already up 3-0 when Lloyd Sam broke into the box lately looking ready to get a fourth. When he was clattered into by Montreal's defense, referee Ricardo Salazar awarded RBNY a penalty - their first since The Encroachment Incident. But who would take it? Thierry Henry had opted out of penalty service since blowing a penalty in the 2011 home opener, with Luke Rodgers, Dwayne DeRosario, and Kenny Cooper all stepping up to the spot since.
Henry would hand the ball to Peguy Luyindula - the French striker who had seemed snakebitten, failing to find the back of the net in ten appearances since joining the team. Even though the game was done and dusted, the tension was palpable - and although Troy Perkins guessed correctly, Peguy's converted his perfectly placed penalty, giving him his first MLS goal and getting that weight of a striker not scoring off his shoulders.
A questionable mid-week friendly awaits. Soccer friendlies can sometimes be fun experience, but this coming Tuesday's exhibition match with Olympique Lyonnais just seems like a comedy of errors. It's unlikely to attract soccer diehards, as the US Men will be playing a Gold Cup match in East Hartford at the same time. It's unlikely to attracted sports casuals, as the MLB All Star Game will be happening at the same time. And for the Red Bulls, who just played Saturday night, it's a dangerously short turnaround - especially with a more meaningful league match in Toronto the following Saturday. Expect to see some lesser known faces from the Red Bulls - when asked if he expected to feature against Lyon, one word from Thierry Henry said it all: "NOPE!"
"YSAGate" continues. After a week was spent wringing hands about a profane chant, all eyes were on the South Ward to see if they would conform to the league and club's request to excise the "You Suck, Asshole" chant. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the chant could be heard on Troy Perkins' only goal kick of the second half. Fingers are being pointed between the three supporters groups online already as to who actually did the chant, as no one appears to want to claim responsibility for being irresponsible. With the drama overshadowing the play on the field, we have to hope it'll all blow over soon.
Beyond the Lyon friendly, the Red Bulls will travel north of the border to Toronto for the second time this season. Their last trip was Tim Cahill's statement game, and since then, TFC has failed to fix their problems, only managing one win (against DC) in ten games. Toronto lost to Kansas City Saturday night, play midweek against Chivas USA, and are in the process of transferring away their captain Darren O'Dea. Trap game? Maybe - but if the Red Bulls can even manage even a third of the effort they put out against Montreal, it shouldn't be an issue.
Mike Petke on how to set the team apart in the league: "It’s always good to look, sitting on top of the conference, it’s wonderful. But I look around here and see so many people who have written for this league for so long. I played in the league for 13 years. It means absolutely nothing. This is such a streaky league, even the best teams have their moments going up and down. It’s just the way this league is built and a big thing that I try to portray to the players is what’s really going to set a team apart in this league, is their ability to play with the ball, because everybody in this league works their asses off, everybody is a run-and-gun team at times, everybody puts the effort in. If you don’t match the effort you’re behind the eight ball when the whistle blows. So the first thing is to match the effort, the second thing is to be a better quality side and tonight we were a better quality side. In Colorado we weren’t, Houston we were. It's a friggin' roller coaster, man."
Tim Cahill on the win as a reaction: "I think today was all about the reaction after the way we played last week. You know, we know that we’re a lot better than what we were last week and it was a massive game for us. There’s a lot at stake, I suppose position wise, also points and how many games we’ve played, but the mentality that we’ve taken from Monday leading into this game was to put right the last game that we played and I felt that we did that on every level and when you get the goals and you get the defensive performance and the fluidity of the play, you know for me I’m very happy playing with a smile on my face and so are a lot of the other lads and I suppose it’s a good day for Red Bulls."
Eric Alexander on his goal: "I don’t really remember too much, I haven’t seen the replay. Just remember getting a final touch on the inside and was able to slide it home."
Peguy Luyindula on whether or not he felt pressure on the penalty: "No, because I know when I choose my side I usually take it right, but I was in a bad moment because when I was kicking the ball to the net it was either stopped or wide so for that one I was thinking a little bit because he was giving me the ball to score and if I didn’t score… it was bad. It was cool because it gave me power, you know."
Thierry Henry on whether it was their most complete performance of the year: "Yes. Thing was, I think we had to respond after the game against Colorado, so we did. But I always say, and will always say - we got only three points tonight. So we have to concentrate on Toronto and make sure we can compete over there."
This Week: Tuesday, July 16th 8:00 PM, vs Olympique Lyonnais (TV: MSG); Saturday, July 20th 4 PM, at Toronto (TV: MSG)