New York Red Bulls rookie head coach Mike Petke won’t forget the team that he put on the Red Bull Arena field last Saturday afternoon versus the Philadelphia Union; the line-up gave Petke his first MLS win as a head coach and the team’s first win of the season. It took all of 81 minutes before second half substitute Thierry Henry scored the winning goal, his first of the season, to seal the 2-1 victory.
Helping Petke’s first-win effort were a number of moves initiated by the coach in his memorable line-up. Central defender Jamison Olave’s return to the starting team brought mush-needed stability to the defense; so far this season, Olave has been the most valuable off-season acquisition for the Red Bulls (1-2-2, 5 pts). He organizes the defenders, communicates well with them and his midfielders and inspires confidence by his presence
The other significant move was midfielder Juninho’s second straight start, which turned out to be his best performance to date after a slow introduction to MLS; the former Brazilian World Cup player was very involved in the game; he dropped back deep into the defense to relieve his defenders of the ball, started the attack and encouraged good ball movement.
Then there was the new forward Peguy Luyindula, who has been favored ahead of off-season acquisition Fabian Espindola. Luyindula, a former French League One performer with a number of top French clubs, has given the Red Bulls good movement and ball-handling skills on the frontline. The diminutive forward created the assist on the Henry’s winning goal.
Midfielder Dax McCarty, an intense and consistent good performer at defensive midfield, was his usual self and more as he scored the first goal in the 55th minute from a corner kick. Philadelphia gave the Red Bulls a run for the win; the Union played a good game and kept the contest close throughout. Second-half substitute Conor Casey equalized from a header off a corner kick in the 63rd minute to make for an exciting finish and one of the best games so far in the league.
The rest of Petke’s memorable team – forward Tim Cahill, who started as a forward, midfielders Eric Alexander, Johnny Steele and Lloyd Sam, and defenders Marcus Holgersson, Heath Pierce and Kosuke Kimura, along with goalkeeper Louis Robles – will always have a special place in the memory of the rookie coach.
The Red Bulls travel to the Chicago Fire on Sunday, April 7 for a 5:00 p.m. game (TV: ESPN2); Sporting Kansas City is the Red Bulls’ next home opponent, on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m.
In other MLS games last weekend, USA national team forward Landon Donovan returned to MLS and helped the Los Angeles Galaxy play to a 2-2 tie with Toronto FC; FC Dallas beat New England Revolution, 1-0; Houston Dynamo knocked off San Jose Earthquakes, 2-0; Sporting Kansas City topped Montreal, 2-0; Real Salt Lake over Seattle Sounders, 2-1; and Chivas USA bettered the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-1.
The Trinidad and Tobago Under-17 men’s soccer team – preparing for the CONCACAF Under-17, 12-team final tournament in Panama starting Saturday, April 6 through April 19, 2013 – completed two games last week against its U. S. counterpart with a loss and a draw in Tampa, Florida. The Trinidadians lost the first game, 4-0, but bounced back to draw the second, 2-2.
Trinidad and Tobago opens play against Canada on Saturday in Panama City and is in Group B along with Costa Rica. Group A consists of Panama, Jamaica and Barbados; Group C will see Haiti, USA and Guatemala do battle; and Group D has Cuba, Mexico and Honduras. The top four teams go to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates this fall.