Dane Richards got the better of his fellow Jamaican when he scored the winner against goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to help the New York Red Bulls (8-3-1, 25 pts.) beat expansion team and hosts Montreal Impact, 2-1, Saturday night at Olympic Stadium.
Richards and Ricketts soon would be suiting up side by side when Jamaica takes on Guatemala on Friday, June 8 in the opening game of the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but last Saturday night, it was a different story; Richards was on a mission to help the Red Bulls get their fifth straight win to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings, while Ricketts was attempting to preserve a shutout and help Montreal (3-6-3,12 pts.) win its fourth game in its last six.
“I was just in the box, lurking around, and the ball popped out to me and I just knocked it home,” Richards said. “I know my countryman, Donovan Ricketts, he’s unhappy with me right now but I had to do it.”
What was probably more frustrating for Ricketts was the fact that he inadvertently gave Richards the assist on the game-winner; Richards’ goal came in the 67th minute when Ricketts parried a Roy Miller cross into the path of Richards, who wasted no time in registering the goal. The moment surely will be a talking point when the pair joins forces in June to help Jamaica in its World Cup qualifying effort.
The New York Red Bulls, undermanned again with injuries to former French international Thierry Henry, Mexican international Rafael Marquez and defenders Stephen Keel and Jon Gunnar Solli, rallied from a 1-0 deficit to tie the score at 1-1 in the 37th minute from a Kenny Cooper penalty kick; Montreal defender Tyson Wahl committed a handball infringement on a Richards cross and it allowed Cooper his team-leading 10th goal.
Montreal got off to a quick start when Bernardo Corradi scored from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute to give Montreal the lead. Richards, always the hard-working and speedy midfielder, was the difference in the game with the assist and the winner; the contest surely is one that Richards and Ricketts will reminisce about well into their retirement years.
New York has done well to rack up five consecutive wins with a very inexperienced squad, particularly on defense. During the streak, the first for the Red Bulls in nine years, New York climbed atop the Eastern Conference, discovered defenders Connor Lade, Brandon Barklage and Tyler Ruthven, while first-year player and European import Markus Holgersson, who got off to a slow start in MLS, seemed to have grown into his defensive role. The youth movement also has seen rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara come into his own very quickly and afforded much playing time to midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, who missed Saturday’s game due to immigration matters.
The trade for national team defender Heath Pearce, recently acquired from Chivas USA, for forward Juan Agudelo, immediately added experience to the Red Bulls backline. Pearce started and played all game at central defense in place of Keel. The youngsters made use of the opportunities that came their way and so far has met the challenge. One example of the constructive play of the young team was its ability to preserve the win despite playing with only 10 players for the last 30 minutes of the game after midfielder Victor Paulsson was ejected with his second yellow card.
Much credit for New York’s good play of late must also go to defensive midfielder Dax Mc Carty, who has lead by example with consistently solid, dependable play and Joel Lindpere, who has picked up the scoring slack in the absence of Henry.
In other MLS games last weekend, Dwayne Di Rosario led Dc United with two goals in a 3-1 defeat of the player’s former team, Toronto FC, which now has lost a league record nine straight games. DC is now in second place in the Eastern Conference. There were a many drawn games: Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders, New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City played to 2-2 draws; FC Dallas and Philadelphia Union and San Jose Earthquakes and Columbus Crew played to 1-1 draws in their games.
The Portland Timbers beat the Chicago Fire, 2-1, and Chivas USA knocked off defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-0. The Galaxy is at the bottom of the nine-team Western Conference, led by Real Salt Lake in the top spot and surprising San Jose in second, while Seattle occupies third place.
England’s Chelsea FC defeated Bayern Munich of Germany, 4-3, on penalty kicks on Saturday to win its first European Champions League club championship for the first time since the club was formed in 1902.
Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, the man-of-the-match, scored in the 90th minute to equalize the game at 1-1 in regulation and later scored the winning penalty to win the title. Tomas Muller had given Bayern Munich the 1-0 lead late in the second half. The game was played at the home stadium of the German club.