Harrison, NJ—After 20 matches in the 2010 MLS season, the New York Red Bulls are in second place of the Eastern Conference with a 9-7-4 record. Despite the recent signings of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, the Red Bulls have gone 1-2-2 in their last five games. With 10 matches remaining in the season, are the Red Bulls syncing or sinking?
The Red Bulls Are Syncing
Despite Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Red Bulls fought the best team in MLS and were in position to tie the game on numerous occasions. Fans and critics alike have to remember that this was the second match in which recently signed Thierry Henry, and Rafa Maraquez have played together with the rest of team.
Take into consideration that this is a transition period for both players. Prior to joining the MLS, their seasons began around this time of the year. While the entire team is in MLS form, Henry and Marquez are going to need a few more games to adjust.
On a positive note, Thierry Henry has been attacking the net aggressively and has contributed three assists in four regular season matches.
Along with the physical conditioning, there's also the mental aspect of it. Both players are still learning to communicate with their new teammates. Off the pitch, they are still adjusting to life in the NY/NJ area.
Whether fans and critics want to hear it or not, these players are humans. Like any one of us who begins a new job or moves to a new location, there's a period of adjustment we've all had to endure.
In matches featuring both players, the Red Bulls faced off against the scrappy Chicago Fire and MLS Best the Los Angeles Galaxy. Against both teams, the team only allowed one goal.
Along with the consistent play of Joel Lindpere and Tim Ream, Tony Tchani has been demonstrating why he was second overall pick in the MLS Superdraft. In addition, the bench has been providing valuable minutes. With their recent elevation, the Red Bulls will have one of the deepest bench in the postseason should they continue to play in the way that they are.
With 10 matches remaining, there's enough time for entire team to adjust to the playing styles of Marquez and Henry. In addition, there's been moments that when the time are in sync and passing the ball, opposing teams are having a difficult time of stopping them.
When it's said and done, the Red Bulls have been the dominant team in their last four matches. The reason they've been 1-1-2 instead of 4-0-0 is because the team hasn't been able to produce goals.
As Henry and Marquez are adjusting to the team, Juan Pablo Angel and Macoumba Kandji have been playing better as of late. Granted they're missed numerous opportunities for goals but there will come a time when they're not missing those opportunities.
The Red Bulls are Sinking
The Red Bulls final 10 matches are against teams with a combined record of 68-55-49. Out those 10 matches, the Red Bulls face off twice against Real Salt Lake. With a record of 11-4-6, Real is the second best team in MLS.
If it wasn't enough, the Red Bulls have four difficult road matches against four playoff contenders: the Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas, Toronto FC, and Real Salt Lake.
In addition to facing those teams, the team faces off against playoff contenders the Colorado Rapids and the San Jose Earthquakes at Red Bull Arena. In layman terms, the Red Bulls play seven out of their last 10 matches against playoff contenders.
The biggest concern facing the Red Bulls is whether they're capable of attacking the net successfully. The team has proven that they're capable of moving the ball but they've also demonstrated their inability to finish as evidenced by the number of offsides calls against them and missed scoring opportunities.
Defensively, are the Red Bulls capable of defending their net? Bouna Koundal has played well this season but he's also had disastrous games in which gave up four goals against San Jose and three goals against rival Columbus Crew. Is he going to play well for the remainder of the season or is he going to suffer a meltdown?
Along with Koundoul's potential meltdown, will he joined by Kandji, Ream and Lindpere. Both have played play and have been the most consistent players on the team but it's a wonder if fatigue will play a factor. As for Kandji, he's either hot or cold so we'll see.
Another concern for the Red Bulls whether 10 matches is enough time for both Marquez and Henry to adjust to the physical style of MLS competition. Will Henry be able to accept that fouls aren't going to be called the way he's accustomed too in Europe?
Overall, will the team be able to produce a postseason appearance or will fans be disappointed for the second consectitive year? Is Manager Hans Backe capable of pulling the team together in time for a postseason run?
The only way to know is to simply watch the games.
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for Latino Sports. Please send him your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org