Take Two: Union at Red Bull New York
The series isn't quite a rivalry yet.
Some more thoughts from Saturday's game...
- Rivalries don't just fall out of the sky fully formed. So I bristled a little bit when people talked about the Union and New York having a rivalry before they'd even played each other once.
It obviously won't take much to get something started, given the longtime enmity between the two cities' sports fans. But it can't just happen after one game, either, and both teams' coaches admitted as much on Saturday.
Red Bulls manager Hans Backe said:
It could be a derby game. But normally the first 30 minutes is a lot of tackles, free kicks, battling, and then the game settles down. But it was a rather quiet game. Perhaps for the future. You need time, of course, for it to become a typical derby game.
Peter Nowak made the same point, but... well, he made it a bit differently:
I think it's more like, who's going to piss everybody off? Who's going to piss off the other team first? Then you're going to get unnecessary quotes in the media, unnecessary behavior, and then the whole thing starts. I don't believe personally in all this kind of stuff.
If you have two teams in the same city, it's a different story. I've been there, done that. You have a certain respect for each other. You have a certain respect among the players. And the game is intense. Whoever you're going to play in our league - we played L.A. in the old days [in Chicago] and that was our big rival because they were always saying that Chicago played bat soccer, defensive soccer. We just wanted to beat them.
I didn't read anything about quotes from the the coaching staff or the players in New York [this week], so I don't think it's the case with this [game].
- Alejandro Moreno talked after the game about the chemistry he has formed with Sebastien Le Toux.
I think it's the fact that we spent a lot of time together in preseason. It's the first time that we've played together, but he's very active, he likes to get in behind defenders, he likes to find open spots in the box... Our relationship is very good on the field, it's very good off the field. I think all of that comes together, and you can see the results.
To say the least. In addition to Moreno's assist on Le Toux's goal, I noticed two other moments where the duo linked up well together.
In the fourth minute, a nicely angled through ball from Moreno found Le Toux wide open in front of New York's net. Then, in the 12th minute, a one-two that Le Toux started on the left side of the 18-yard box resulted in a close-range shot that Le Toux pushed wide of the far post.
- Chris Seitz has taken a lot of criticism this season, and with some justification. But give him credit for a fine point-blank save on Juan Pablo Angel, one of Major League Soccer's best finishers, in the 41st minute.
- As for the Red Bulls' first goal, a couple remarks. First of all, when Salou Ibrahim played the ball to Jeremy Hall, no one went out to the flank to try to close Hall down. Hall had plenty of time to survey the 18-yard box before sending his cross in, and he delivered a fine pass.
- Another point from the first goal: Should Ibrahim have been called for a foul going up for the header? Watching the replay, there was a lot of contact by both teams in the box, and I think Ibrahim might have pushed off Jordan Harvey as he went up.
Harvey was basically stuck in no-man's land at that point, and there was no way Chris Seitz could have gone for the ball withoug slamming into Harvey.
- It's human nature to put your hands up in the air when you jump. But if you're a soccer player, you have to train yourself to not do that, and I'm sure Michael Orozco knew it before Saturday.
On the Union's local TV broadcast, color analyst Kyle Martino said he thought the handball was intentional - not just the ball hitting Orozco's arm. I disagree, but it was certainly a big mistake.
- I thought Martino's commentary was impressively honest. The former U.S. national team midfielder isn't new to the broadcast booth, having been an analyst on ESPN's MLS broadcast before joining the Union's team.
For example, there was this after Orozco's handball:
Sometimes you say it's unlucky, but unfortunately you can't say that for the Union. Califf's elbow last week - not unlucky, just a bad play. The hand ball here this week, not unlucky. Seitz'z goal that he let up. These are mistakes that should not happen at the professional level, and the Union's made way too many of them in such a short period.
They're making it so diffiult on themselves, because they're playing great soccer right now, and it's such a shame that they're not getting results based on one and two bad mistakes that should never happen this often, this early in the season.
Martino and J.P. Dellacamera also did not use the first person "we" or "us." You don't always get such unbiased commentary from local broadcasting crews. Seattle's Arlo White does a fantastic job, but the former BBC announcer sometimes uses the first person when describing the Sounders. The Union front office should be applauded for picking a television crew that remains detached from the team.
- Speaking of refreshing honesty, Hans Backe deserves praise for his postgame remarks Saturday. Backe was asked whether he would play his starters or rest them in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup game against the Union, and he said he had changed his philosophy since coming to New York.
I had to change my mind... I've always prioritized the cup [competitions] wherever I've been in each country, and I've been in six cup finals - losing five. So I've won one.
But with the schedule now, and the Juventus game coming [May 23], if we win the [U.S. Open] Cup we would probably play nine games from today until June 5. I don't think this squad is available to cope with that. So we will play mostly the players who haven't been involved in the first five games.
What plays or moments from Saturday's game stood out to you?