Red Bulls in waiting game

Last Saturday’s New York Red Bulls-DC United MLS showdown revealed the present tale of the two teams. Both teams, long-time Eastern Conference rivals, clearly are on different paths as a result of each club’s off-season approach to the 2014 season. Host DC United (2-2-1, 7 pts.) won the contest, 1-0, at RFK Stadium on a goal by Davy Arnaud in the fourth minute to register its second win of the young, six-week-old season, while the Red Bulls (0-2-4, 4 pts.) are still searching for its first victory.

DC United had a disastrous season last year: it won only three games, lost 24 and drew seven and finished last in the Eastern Conference with the worst record in the entire league. In the off-season, it was vigilant in rebuilding the squad and brought in nearly an entire team. One of the new players was a Fabian Espindola from the Red Bulls, who had the assist on Saturday’s winning goal. Among other new faces for DC United are U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson, MLS veteran defender Sean Franklyn from Los Angeles Galaxy, Arnaud and Chris Rolfe from the Chicago Fire.

Conversely, the Red Bulls won the Eastern conference and the Supporters’ Shield with the best record in the league at 17 wins, nine losses and eight draws. This success should be fuel to repeat and even go further to win the MLS Cup; it should be motivation to improve the team, ride the victory wave to attract better players to start a wining tradition. Instead, the Red Bulls fell well short of improvement.

The major losses in the off-season were central defender Marcus Holgersson, fullback Heath Pierce and Espindola; the major acquisitions – central defender Armando, fullback Richard Eckersley and midfielder Bobby Convey – don’t compensate for the off-season losses.

The most dire consequence of not improving the team is that there seems to be no competitive team spirit, probably because there is hardly any competition for starting positions. This is evident because the Red Bulls get off to slow, lethargic starts, void of any passion win; when the team falls behind, the players then become energized and stage unorganized and desperate forays on an opponent’s goal, but in most instances, they run out of time.

Head coach Mike Petke seems to have recognized the team’s shortcomings and with only six games played, he has time to find ways to make his team play with passion and purpose from the opening whistle. The Red Bulls plays the Philadelphia Union next; meanwhile, DC United is developing a winning momentum and is looking to its third straight win, against the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

AROUND MLS

U. S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann would be relieved to know that his top player, Clint Dempsey, has scored five goals in his last two games; Dempsey’s latest performance saw him score two goals to lead a Seattle Sounders rally for a 3-2 win over previously unbeaten host FC Dallas at Frisco Park.

David Texeira put Dallas ahead early, but Dempsey equalized, 1-1, before Dallas forged ahead again, 2-1, for the halftime lead. Seattle turned up the pressure to force an own goal before Dempsey tapped in Chad Barrett’s cross for the winner. In Philadelphia’s PPL Park, the Union and Real Salt Lake played to a 2-2 draw. Trailing in the 90th minute, it took a Maurice Edu’s header off Christian Maidana’s corner kick to save the day for the Philadelphia Union.

Luke Mulholland scored to give RSL the early lead; Andrew Wenger tied the game for the Union and Kyle Beckerman gave RSL its second lead five minutes before the end to set up the dramatic finish with Edu’s header. Host New England Revolution got goals from Kevin Alston and Honduras international Jerry Bengtson to lead the home team a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. Colorado Rapids and new coach Pablo Mastroeni keep on winning, this time veteran forward Edson Buddle scored his 99th career goal to give the Rapids the1-0 victory over host Toronto FC at BMO Field. Toronto was without its top stars, U. S. international Michael Bradley and English international Jermain Defoe.

On the West coast, the Los Angeles Galaxy got a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps when Irish international Robbie Keane scored in the 47th minute at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles. Host Portland Timbers, still without a win, drew, 1-1, against Chivas USA at Providence Park; host Montreal Impact and the Chicago Fire also played to a 1-1 draw at Olympic Stadium. Jack McInerney scored in the first half for Montréal and Quincy Amarikwa tallied for Chicago; both teams are still winless. Finally in the Western Conference, host San Jose and the Columbus Crew drew, 1-1, at Buck Shaw Stadium. After trailing for most much of the game, Chris Wondolowski headed in a corner kick to get the draw for the host; Federico Higuain had put the visitors ahead in the first half.

SERMANI LEAVES USA WOMEN

Last Sunday, April 6, in a meeting just hours after the USA women’s national team defeated China, 2-0, in Commerce City Colorado, head coach Tom Sermani was given his marching orders by U. S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.

“We want to thank Tom for his service over the past year and half, but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time,” said Gulati. “We will begin looking for a new coach immediately to guide our women’s national team toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

Sermani said he was surprised at the sacking. “They said they didn’t think things were working in the direction that they had hoped for and that was basically that,” said the Scottish coach, who was hired 15 months ago and won 18 games, lost two and tied four (18-2-4).

Speculation is that the team’s poor showing in a the Algarve Cup in Portugal about a month ago, where the squad finished seventh in a tournament it had won eight times in 11 appearances was the reason for Sermani’s sacking.

At the Algarve Cup in March, the U. S. lost to Sweden and Denmark and tied Japan with its only win coming against North Korea. It had been several years since the U.S. women lost back-to-back games and these results came when the team was ranked No. I in the world. Assistant coach and director of development Jill Ellis will take over on an interim basis. Ellis led to the team to a 3-0 win over China in the second game last Thursday in San Diego.

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