It’s only one game, but it looked so much better than any game from 2009.
Red Bull New York’s 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire last night was a complete turnaround from what was only a five-win team from last year. Everything was noticeably different.
The most obvious difference was the new stadium and incredible fan support.
Instead of playing in front of a sparse crowd in barren Giants Stadium where the noise made, if any, would just dissipate into the wide open space, the Red Bulls were now the main event at a packed Red Bull Arena where the noise would bounce off the roof over the seats.
There were finally fans at the game and they were finally glad to be there.
Still, to win games things needed to be different on the pitch as well, and they were.
Passing was markedly better.
It all started from the back as rookie Tim Ream showed why he was so highly touted throughout the preseason. Not only was he solid defensively, but his sharp passing was on display as he looked comfortable on the ball and linked up with midfielder Joel Lindpere quite a bit in transition.
Lindpere has looked like a great signing for the team in his short Red Bull career thus far. Again, his passing was very good. He was able to make plays and, most importantly, keep possession for the team.
Last year the Red Bulls had problems holding possession and transitioning from defense to offense, often opting to just bomb the ball to their forwards and bypass the midfield.
Last night, the midfield was able to keep the ball and create scoring chances through their midfield. Lindpere scored the lone goal of the match off a fantastic strike from just outside the 18-yard box.
The organization of the outside midfielders and fullbacks was also much improved.
Fullbacks Roy Miller and Jeremy Hall worked nicely with the guys playing in front of them, Danleigh Borman and Dane Richards. All have good speed, and the fullbacks made plenty of overlapping runs. The difference between 2009 and 2010 was that as the fullbacks made their move into the offensive third, the midfielders dropped back to cover for them.
Not everything was good though.
The offense did not shoot enough. Especially facing a young goalkeeper making his first professional start, the team needed to test the goalie early and often and force him to make plays, but it didn’t happen.
If Macoumba Kandji is going to be partnered up top with Juan Pablo Angel, then his decision making needs to be better. Either shoot the ball or drop it in front of the goal for someone else to come onto it, but too many times did Kandji just hold onto the ball and lose it, blowing the possession.
Also, the defense, while better, still was not entirely perfect. There was Brian McBride’s bicycle kick that he was left wide open for that hit the post. Had that gone in the entire complexion of the game would’ve changed. Goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul was out of position numerous times in the first half as well.
Still, unlike other years, the Red Bulls overcame these deficiencies and closed out the game. Too many times have fans watched their team take an early lead only to watch them give it up in the final minutes and either tie or lose and miss out on three points.
Overall, it was a good victory and the right way for the team to start off its new era.
The Red Bulls are now riding a lot of momentum. An undefeated preseason followed by an exciting home win over an MLS Cup semi-finalist from last year have the team feeling good about themselves. If they can continue to improve and play with confidence, it could be an exciting season for the team and its fans.