3 Thoughts on Red Bulls Loss to Quakes

Another loss for NY, despite holding an early lead against its opponent
by Zac Wassink   |   Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Branded Bulls – column on Red Bull NY (RBNY – NYRB) & the New Jersey area soccer scene.

We're just two games into the 2013 Major League Soccer season, and fans of the New York Red Bulls have serious concerns about the team's backline. They're crying out for a new left back to be signed ASAP. They're criticizing a designated player. Some are even wondering if manager Mike Petke has the goods to end the cup drought that has haunted this franchise for nearly 20 years.

Never change, Red Bulls. Never change.

Miller makes his mistake

There's no point in even discussing Sunday night's match without immediately mentioning the much-maligned Roy Miller, a player I have defended on multiple occasions in the past and also one who has routinely made me look very silly for such defenses. Miller was largely an afterthought at San Jose up until what will probably go down as the low point of his MLS career, when he gifted a pair of penalties to the hosts; one thanks to a blatant hand-ball in the box, and another after he entered the penalty area early before Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski had his PK attempt saved by Luis Robles.

It's easy in the FIFA gaming worlds many of us inhabit to suggest dropping Miller from the New York starting XI, MLS and perhaps all of North America. Things are much more complicated in real life. The new RBNY regime is not interested in throwing money away, and I can't imagine the team would be willing to swallow up some portion of a contract in order to release a player that they would struggle trading to another MLS side.

There's also the depth issue that some New York supporters are ignoring the day after the team's first loss of the season. Heath Pearce, who could be moved over to Miller's spot, is the MLS version of Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen; a player who can feature out on the wing, but one who prefers to play in the middle. It's also worth noting that moving Pearce out left would likely force Petke to select Markus Holgersson, who hasn't at all impressed his new boss, to start at the back. Kosuke Kimura, Connor Lade and Brandon Barklage all naturally play on the right, and converting to the other side isn't something that one does overnight.

Miller absolutely deserves to be dropped from the starting XI. What Petke and company cannot afford, however, is to rotate backs throughout the campaign. It didn't work last year, and it won't work in 2013.

Missing man

What in the world is going on with Connor Lade? Lade hasn't been seen in New York's first two games, and his absence has been glaring. Is Lade having fitness issues that nobody knows about? Is this a matter of Petke trying to show everybody in the squad that this is now his team? Whatever the issue is, nobody within RBNY is saying anything about it, and the silence is deafening.

Here's what we know: Petke has selected Kimura, Miller, Barklage, Ruben Bover, Eric Alexander, Jonny Steele and Armando Moreno ahead of the Thierry Henry favorite this month. I was hoping and expecting Lade to be used as a second half sub both last night and last Sunday when New York were away to Portland Timbers. Petke had other plans. That, whether intentional or not, says a lot about how the coach views Lade at this early part of the season.

The big problem?

It's fashionable, not to mention very easy, to bash Miller following the horror show that occurred on Sunday night. One player rarely wins or loses a game all by himself, a point hammered home by Dax McCarty on Monday morning. For the second consecutive weekend, the Red Bulls were outworked, outplayed and outclassed during the final 20 minutes of a game. That's a concern for a team filled with veterans who have made many a journey around the block.

MLS isn't like the Premier League, where a top-four side can phone it in for a half against the likes of Reading or Wigan and still pick up 3 points. The talent gap in the US top-flight domestic league shrinks each and every year. Don't take my word on it. Just ask Sporting KC, FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders or Colorado Rapids, all teams that have dropped points in 2013 largely because of not playing a full 90 minutes in league contests.

Teams who can't close opponents out don't win championships. That's a fact in any sport. Thankfully, it's also a trait that a club can acquire as the season goes along. Nobody within the RBNY fan base should be panicking about this squad on March 11.

That said, it'd probably do everybody a lot of good if New York beat DC at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon.

NEXT UP: March 16 – Red Bull New York vs D.C. United, Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J. 12:30 p.m., NBC.

Zac WASSINK

Nationality:
USA
College:
Penn State
Club Domestic:
Red Bull NY
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
A New York Mets fan, Zac thought it best to choose the Mets of MLS, the Red Bulls, as his domestic club. A big fan of MLS, Tottenham Hotspur, the Premier League and even the A-League (No Guts, No Glory), Zac covers RBNY and the NY-NJ soccer scene.
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