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FC Dallas were the favorites in their MLS Cup Playoffs contest versus the New York Red Bulls. They had the fourth-best regular season in the league, while New York was down at 10th. They were at home and they were healthy. The Red Bulls were just those big budget, little return guys from a big city who spent the season bickering. Joel Lindpere and Thierry thought otherwise though as each scored in a 2-0 Red Bulls win that eliminated the Hoops and moved New York onto the conference semifinals where they will face the LA Galaxy.
At the beginning, New York looked the inept team as Dallas took the play to them. They had the possession and the chances, but as time went on, it became clear that Dallas were at least equally inept. Their finishing was abysmal and the more their back line had to pass the ball, the more they gave it away. It was ugly soccer from both sides and it carried into the second half.
Hans Backe, who was already being panned for putting just five players on the bench, made the move to put Mehdi Ballouchy in at the hour mark. That move also looked questionable considering Ballouchy's poor play this season, but he made it may off after just a minute. Ballouchy and Lindpere combined on the right with a give-and-go with Ballouchy eventually played a low cross in front of goal that Lindpere went sliding in for. Ugo Ihemelu lost his mark of Lindpere and just watched as Lindpere knocked the ball in for the opening goal.
Dallas got a boost in the 79th minute when New York was sent down to 10 men. Jan Gunnar Solli went in on a stupid and high challenge from behind on Daniel Hernandez and was rightfully sent off. It didn't amount to much for Dallas though, who still struggled to put things together. The Zach Loyd went off after colliding heads with Rafa Marquez and because Dallas had used all their subs, both teams were at 10 men.
Henry put the ribbon on the game when he latched onto a clearance. He got in behind a Dallas team that was pressed forward in search of an equalizer and he tried to chip Kevin Hartman, who got a hand to it. Henry was quick to get back to the ball though and tapped it into the empty net. It clinched the win and a high profile match up with Los Angeles, who will be in New York to start the two-legged tie on Sunday.
Just to recap, no team that has played in the CCL group stage has ever won a MLS Playoff round. FC Dallas' losing neatly fits into that narrative and I suppose we're going to have to hear about it until someone breaks the streak, but people don't really believe this do they?
The Los Angeles Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders all have chances to put that silliness to bed, but I refuse to believe it's a real thing either way. Nothing about the Galaxy or Sounders, in particular, tells me they are tired. Both teams finished the regular season strong and there's no reason to believe that losing in the playoff will be proof of anything other than the playoff system sucks. That is all.
Apparently New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe thinks this will be his best coaching job yet if his team wins ... this ... one ... game. That's just dumb. Really, really dumb.
Well, let me back track. I really don't know much about Backe's coaching career prior to coming to MLS, so my opinion is based off what I've seen of him over the past two years. But even based on last year and this year, that just seems like an amazingly laughable assertion.
Maybe Backe has forgotten, but at the start of the year a lot of people picked his team to win the Supporters Shield. Heck, Backe picked his team to win the Supporters' Shield. In case the fact that his team was playing in the wild card round wasn't enough of a clue, his team did not win the Supporters' Shield.
Apparently, he thinks it was an amazing hardship to have a bunch of his players called up to national team duty. And I'm sure that's part of it, but ... no, that much of a difference. This team was easily the biggest underachiever in the league and Backe's management was a huge part of that. Sorry, Hans, you don't get a pass on that one.
Jan Gunnar Solli has a reputation as a very offensive-minded right back. Judging from his red-card earning tackle on Daniel Hernandez in Wednesday's MLS Cup wild card match, he might want to stick to the offensive side. Solli's tackle was late, high and unnecessary and it was no surprise that he was sent off immediately.
Luckily, Hernandez was not too seriously hurt and he was able to get back onto the field shortly after coming off. That left FC Dallas about 10 minutes to make a comeback against the Red Bulls in a match that will mean the end of one of their seasons.
If the Red Bulls survive and advance, Solli will be forced to sit out.
If the rumor mill is to be believed, each time we see Brek Shea play in a FC Dallas uniform, it might be our last. If tonight's MLS Cup wild card match against the New York Red Bulls is our final time seeing him, it will be rather disappointing.
In a season that has come to be defined by Shea being run into the ground by some overzealous managers, Shea has been absolutely invisible. It's not entirely his fault, as his teammates have done an embarrassingly poor job of finding him, but the fact is he has not done almost anything.
His best chance of the night was a half chance on the left wing when he chipped a ball toward an open net that Tim Ream of all people was able to clear to safety. She has only had a handful of touches other than that one and hasn't really had a legitimate scoring chance. Definitely not the lasting image he wants to make on FC Dallas or MLS fans.
At what point does Hans Backe literally start calling every single one of his detractors and say, "Scoreboard." So far, I've been spending the bulk of this game basically just saying how awful I think the New York Red Bulls coach is, and yet his team is leading 1-0 and poised to register a mild upset over FC Dallas in the MLS Cup wild card round.
Backe only brought five bench players. He somehow duped a German goalkeeper into playing for his team. He refuses to play the next-great-American-prospect. He loves him some Mehdi Ballouchy. So far, it's all paying off and I'm starting to wonder if maybe he's just out-crazied all of us.
Maybe Backe really knows what he's doing and this is all part of the plan. No one likes him, and he doesn't care.
Then again, there's still about 18 minutes left in this game and a lot can still go wrong. Come on Dallas, I really don't want to receive that phone call.
I was literally in the process of writing a "How awful is Mehdi Ballouchy?" update. He had just entered the game as the first player off the bench, after all, and most of us laugh when that happens. So, of course he picks up an assist just about a minute after entering the game to give the New York Red Bulls a 1-0 lead over FC Dallas in the MLS Cup wild card match.
Truth be told, it was a really nice play from Ballouchy that created it. After Kevin Hartman stopped a Joel Lindpere shot and came back out to Dane Richards, Ballouchy took a pass, made a couple nice dribbles and delivered a no-look pass to Lindpere on a platter.
Of course, some pretty questionable defending contributed to it, but credit where credit is due. Lindpere made a nice run and Ballouchy made an absolutely perfect pass. Maybe this is exactly what Hans Backe has been dreaming of.
Juan Agudelo sprung into the American consciousness right around this time last year. That's when New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe shocked most of the MLS observing world when he gave the teenager a surprise start in a playoff game against the San Jose Earthquakes.
It seemed like a stroke of genius as he set up a Thierry Henry goal and nearly helped lead the Red Bulls to a victory. He eventually got a look from Bob Bradley on the United States national team and even scored a late goal in his debut. He scored again in his second USMNT appearance and suddenly he was the new "it" player.
At the time, Backe cautioned us all against letting the hype train run off the tracks and seemed genuinely concerned that expectations would lead to Agudelo's downfall. Of course, the only way he could control that was by not playing Agudelo ... and that's exactly what he's done.
Sure, Agudelo plays, but not that much and certainly not as much as his supporters would like. On Wednesday, like most nights, he's starting on the bench. He'll probably enter the game sometime very late in the match with very limited opportunity to make an impact.
Is this how you develop talent? I'm no expert, but it's not how I'd do it. Great talent is not developed by watching the Mehdi Ballouchys of the world be the first player off the bench.
I've never met Frank Rost. I don't know anybody who has even talked to him, as far as I know. Maybe he's a really good guy, full of jokes, saying things in his German accent that leaves his New York Red Bulls teammates in stitches.
But I doubt it.
Every time the camera focuses on him during the MLS Cup wild card game against FC Dallas, he seems very unhappy. And can you blame him?
Coming from the Bundesliga, he was surely lured to New York by promises of a nice little payday and the prospect of living in one of the world's truly international cities. He probably knew Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez were on the team, and he surely had heard of those guys. He knew their checks probably weren't bouncing, so that's a bonus in the world of soccer. How bad could it be?
He has found out just how bad it can be as the Red Bulls have been awash in negativity basically ever since he got there. It's not really his fault, of course, as he has played just fine since his rocky start. But no one on that team seems to like each other and I just imagine Rost sits alone in the training room, wondering why he decided to sign on to be a part of this mess.
Now, watch him go and pitch a shutout on Wednesday and celebrate wildly with his teammates. I think my vision is funnier though.
Tim Ream is not having a very good day. The New York Red Bulls center back, who is supposedly being scouted by Arsenal, has been basically eaten alive by the FC Dallas attack for much of their MLS Cup wild card game on Wednesday. It's hard to see how those scouts are thinking anything other than "why are we watching this guy?"
So it was a golden opportunity he missed when he was left all alone at the top of the penalty area in the 37th minute. A had deflected out to Ream, who was able to run onto it and strike it in stride. But he hit it almost right at FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, keeping the game scoreless.
Of course, scoring on such a play would not have done anything to answer the questions about his suspect defense, but at least it would have been a nice moment to celebrate on an otherwise forgettable night.
The amount of time we spend talking about Brek Shea's hair is, frankly, amazing. Well, I guess it's not that amazing if you consider we spend a lot of time talking about the hair of various footballers around the world. Whether it's Kyle Beckerman's dreadlocks, Fredy Montero's rat tail or whatever hairstyle Neymar is deciding to rock this week, it seems the particulars of how a player decides to wear their locks is never free from our gaze.
Maybe Shea knows this and is playing right into it. Shea is a pretty darn good player, and as our own Ryan Rosenblatt recently pointed out, he's probably going to be playing in Europe pretty soon. But it can't hurt his profile to constantly have people talking about him.
Think about it: Almost as often as people are making fun of his ... we calling that a mohawk, I guess? ... they are talking about how promising of a prospect he is. Heck, the hype around him was good enough this summer that a lot of MLS MVP voters seem to have overlooked the fact that his production dropped to almost nil over the final three months of the season.
So, maybe it's good that we're talking about players' hair. It does seem that it's usually because the player is already worth talking about.
FC Dallas is finding quite a bit of space in the early going during their MLS Cup wild card game against the New York Red Bulls. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise, necessarily, as the Red Bulls have struggled on defense for much of the season, but it does highlight one of the major concerns Hans Backe should have had coming into this game.
While FC Dallas has plenty of speed, especially at forward and on the wings, the Red Bulls have guys like Stephen Keel, Tim Ream and Rafael Marquez playing key defensive roles. Jan Gunnar Solli, who's a decent passer and a career midfielder, continues to be thrust into the right back role in which he has not exactly excelled.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the attack has been generated from the left wing, or the side that Solli is defending. Marvin Chavez, Brek Shea and Fabian Castillo have all had decent looks so far and we are only 14 minutes in.
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you, the New York Red Bulls really have a five-man bench. No, the rules have not changed once the playoffs starts, that means they are dressing two fewer players than they are allowed to. I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a possible reason for not dressing the allowable number of players, but I'm coming up blank.
The only plausible theory I've heard is that Red Bulls coach Hans Backe really hates using his bench anyway, and this way he won't be tempted to accidentally pick a player he didn't intend to use. It seems crazy, but that seems as plausible a solution as any.
Backe has, of course, gained quite a reputation for his refusal to use his bench. According to the Sporting News' Brian Straus, the Red Bulls have used their full compliment of bench players just nine times all year. As a point of comparison, DC United has used all three subs 29 times, the Seattle Sounders have done it 27 times and Real Salt Lake has done it 26 times.
Even if Backe didn't intend to use any other players, this just unnecessarily limits his options. Sure, it saves a few bucks on air travel, but is that really worth it?
It's weird lineup time in Dallas as we get ready for the first game of the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs. First, we have the New York Red Bulls and their five-man bench. Yes, Luke Rodgers is out with knee inflammation and there might be some other guys banged up a little, but this is a one-off playoff match and Hans Backe decided to dress only five on the bench. New York in a nutshell. Or not? The Red Bulls appear to be playing a 4-4-2 with Dax McCarty as a right-sided midfielder, but Backe won't be crazy enough to do that. What it really is is a 4-3-3, or at least we're going to hope so.
On the FC Dallas side, it's a different kind of weird. It's not the crazy weird like Backe, but more their regular, "we have four guys who can all interchange weird." The back four and Daniel Hernandez and Andrew Jacobson as holding midfielders are set, but there's the front four with four dangerous players who can really play anywhere up top. They're going to interchange all match and while they do a good job of job of keeping shape in that front 3-1, they're all always moving around so who is in what position at any given time is always different.
The 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs kick off on Wednesday night with the first of two Wild Card matches. FC Dallas was in a top-three position in the Western Conference for most of the year, but Schellas Hyndman opted to play his backups on the final day of the season to rest his starters. His backups lost, Real Salt Lake moved up into third in the west, and Dallas now has to play New York Red Bulls to get into the quarterfinals.
FC Dallas star and 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira is still out for this game, while New York is missing striker Luke Rodgers. Other than that, the teams are close to full strength. Here's all of the information on the game and how you can watch.
Game Date: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Time: 9:00 P.M. ET, 8:00 P.M. local
Venue: Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas
TV Schedule: FOX Soccer Channel (USA), TSN2 (Canada)
If you live in the USA, J.P. Dellacamera and Kyle Martino will be on the call on FSC. In addition to the game, FOX will also have a 30 minute pregame show and a 30 minute postgame show.
This has been a pretty disappointing season for the New York Red Bulls. A team that was expected to make a run at the Supporters' Shield ended up being the final team to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. Believe it or not, though, they are actually on better form than Wednesday's opponent, FC Dallas. Once a Metro explains:
And it isn't just the Red Bulls that Dallas has been having trouble with lately. The team is 4-7-1 in September and October. The Red Bulls are 3-1-1 in their last five.
Yes, that's not exactly an apple-to-apples comparison. If you look at a similar timeframe for the Red Bulls, their record is 4-2-2, which is still better, but maybe doesn't make the point quite as clearly. It's also worth pointing out that FC Dallas' record includes CONCACAF Champions League games, which the Red Bulls weren't playing in, obviously.
Still, it's not an irrelevant point that OAM makes. The Red Bulls have been playing better lately, and FC Dallas has been struggling. No way around that.
In 2009, Stuart Holden came back from the Gold Cup and played on a different level than the rest of his teammates. It appears that national team experience has done the same for Brek Shea.
He's the guy that we just can't get away from. Hell, he's the guy that the New York Red Bulls can't get away from. He's Rafael Marquez and he's been the most talked about player in MLS this season. That's for a number of reasons. First, he's the former captain of the Mexican national team. Two, he's one of the most highly paid players in MLS. Three, he plays in New York, the country's media market. Four, his team has gone from title favorite to barely scraping their way into the playoffs. Five, he's been downright lazy, has publicly called out teammates and if anyone was going to be blamed for the Red Bulls' struggles it would be him.
Naturally, as we head into the playoffs, the spotlight is back in Marquez. He's been moved from the defense to the midfield, but his effort has only been marginally better. While he's flashed his incredible ability with a few pinpoint passes and the occasional strong tackle, he's also watched attackers run right by him and tracking back has been treated as more of an optional task.
Only a year ago, Marquez was responsible for a key playoff goal when he lost his mark. It led to the Red Bulls' playoff ouster and if he doesn't show better effort and discipline this season, New York well end up out on the golf course earlier than they hoped. David Ferreira is still out with an injury, but FC Dallas has a MVP candidate in Brek Shea who Marquez will be called upon to help with.
Shea will be out on the left for Dallas, where Jan Gunnar Solli and Dane Richards will be charged with trying to slow him. That's a bit much to ask from those two, meaning they will need help from the defensive midfield. That means Marquez, who will have to slide over and put in some defensive work or the Red Bulls will fall victim to Shea and Co. It's time, Rafa. If you don't step up now then your entire season, and your team's, will be a massive disappointment.
Big D Soccer's Daniel Robertson details how FC Dallas went from Supporters' Shield contenders to limping into the playoffs.
New York has only two wins away from home this season but one came against FC Dallas.
Luke Rodgers has been ruled out of Wednesday's MLS Cup wild-card playoff game against FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. Dane Richards is expected to move from the midfield to forward to accomodate the absence.
Richards' move to forward also opens up a midfield spot and Backe indicated that second-year man Juan Agudelo could be deployed there. Agudelo has mostly played forward during his brief MLS career, but Backe seems to think his youngster is well suited for the position.
"I also think with Juan now, with the type of players we have now, his first choice could be a wide position and I know he’s quite happy playing wide," Backe said of Agudelo. "[He] gets a little more time and space on the ball instead of being a striker and the center back sits on [him]."
Rodgers has been one of the key cogs in the Red Bulls attack this season. He is second on the team with nine goals, adding three assists to his point total. The Red Bulls are 9-3-8 in games Rodgers has started and just 1-5-8 in games he did not start.
Brek Shea is the latest hot American prospect, but he is unlike any American before him and a more apt comparison is, perhaps, a player by the name of Gareth Bale
FC Dallas and the Red Bulls both entered the season with hopes of winning a first-ever MLS Cup. Now one of their seasons will end in the wild-card round.
Once a Metro's Matt Conroy gives us the lowdown on how the Red Bulls went from preseason MLS Cup favorites to barely sneaking into the playoffs.
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