New York continues bullish 2010
A new coach, a new system and a new philosophy has
worked wonders for the Red Bulls this preseason.
The worst team in all of MLS last season is undefeated at 4-0-3 after
capturing the inaugural Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic Saturday
night, thanks to an impressive hat trick by Juan Pablo Angel in an
emphatic 4-0 triumph against Toronto FC.
Yet, the players realize it is way too early to get excited because
while the results are encouraging, especially compared to last year's
5-19-6 finish, the games do not count and there is still a long road
"Well, I could tell you that it feels like night and day compared to
last year," Red Bulls veteran defender Mike Petke said after Saturday's
victory at ESPN's Wide World of Sports. "However, I don't have to remind
too many people on how we did in the preseason last year. We were close
to perfect in preseason as well. However, that's half joking, but half
serious to keep it in perspective. We're playing much differently this
year. It just feels good. It really does."
Petke credited the new regime under coach Hans Backe and sporting
director and general manager Erik Soler. Under Juan Carlos Osorio the
past two seasons, the Red Bulls seemed to change lineups and formations
as quickly as the players changed underwear.
"There are a million differences. the biggest ones are absolutely the
discipline, the accountability, the sheer game plan that he [Backe] has
laid out and stuck to for a month and a half. The game plan was put
down, how we were going to play and what kind of team we were going to
be. It's one thing to just say it. It's another thing to say it and work
on it every day. And that's what we've done.
"Am I saying we're going to sit here and we're going to win a
championship? No, but we're definitely a step in the right direction
What happened Saturday night must have stunned the crowd, who braved
unusual central Florida temperatures in the mid-40 to watch a
doubleheader (the Houston Dynamo defeated FC Dallas in the first game,
2-1). They certainly were entertained by a tremendous performance by Red
Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel, who was in midseason form with a hat
trick and spectacular miss on a bicycle kick that had the appreciative
spectators applauding his efforts as well.
Backe called Angel's show "excellent."
"It was very important for him to start scoring some goals," he added.
"It was some good set-ups from [midfielder Roy] Miller and the other
guys. But he was there where he should be as a striker. For his
confidence it was great that he scored three."
The game seemed to be a continuation of the Red Bulls' 5-0 thumping of
Toronto, which eliminated the team from playoff contention in the 2009
The former Colombian international attempted a 16-yard bicycle kick that
went wide in the 15th minute, but the spectators applauded his brazen
Angel found the back of the net in the 32nd minute, heading home Joel
Lindpere's line drive corner kick from point-blank range to the near
Five minutes later he doubled the lead, finishing a rapid build-up on
the left side. Rookie central defender Tim Ream started the play with a
pass to Miller, who found Angel in the penalty area. Angel quickly
converted past goalkeeper Stefan Frei for a two-goal advantage.
Angel made it a pure hat trick in the 49th minute, converting a feed
from rookie Austin da Luz.
"I've been feeling great," Angel said. "As long as I don't have to touch
the turf, I feel phenomenal."
Angel was referring to the artificial turf, which he dislikes with a
passion after playing on it for home games at Giants Stadium the past
three years. This year the Red Bulls will play on the green grass of Red
Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
"Preseason has been good," Angel said. "The atmosphere in the camp has
been great. I have been enjoying every second of it. I feel little by
little [finding] my form. Any game is important for any striker to score
goals. When you get a hat trick, obviously that is building your
confidence up. I felt well today in general, not just because of the
goals. The movement, the touch, the work rate. feeling well in general."
Forward Conor Chinn put an exclamation point on the night, finishing a
rare all-rookie scoring line on the stats sheet. Midfielder Tony Tchani
fed da Luz in the left corner. Da Luz then sent a cross to Chinn, who
headed the ball in.
The Red Bulls received a major scare in the 69th minute when Toronto
midfielder Julian de Guzman kicked Angel in the right knee. Angel, the
team's all-time leading goalscorer, slumped to the field and withered in
pain, clutching his right knee at midfield.
Escorted off the field by team athletic trainer Rick Guter, Angel walked
with a slight limp. He was able to remain on the bench and attend the
award ceremony afterwards and sign autographs for fans as well.
He will be re-examined by Guter as early as Sunday and if needed, by a
doctor, this week.
"It shouldn't happen," Angel said. "The ball was far off. It was a
stupid tackle. Hopefully, there's nothing serious, especially from a
player that with his experience. I'm sure he didn't mean it, but it
Backe said a "player like that should have a little bit more respect.
When you can't reach the ball, there is no way to go for that kind of
Needless to say, Angel's teammates were not too happy about the foul and
"It's probably a good thing I wasn't on the field," said Petke, who had
been substituted by then. "It probably would have been my first red
"It just thought it was a combination of them being frustrated and an
average player putting a horrible tackle on a good player. Uncalled
Lewis covers soccer for the New York Daily News and is editor
of BigAppleSoccer.com. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.
Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's, and not
necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.