New York's Hall stuffs Neymar’s bag of tricks
At the inauguration of $200 million Red Bull Arena on Saturday night, there was another multimillion-dollar jewel on display.
In the absence of the injured Robinho, that jewel was Santos star winger Neymar, the subject of a reported $35 million offer from Chelsea. Considered the new Robinho, the 18-year-old received the loudest ovations from the numerous Brazilian fans on hand.
But New York right back Jeremy Hall wasn't among the awed spectators on the night. He shut down Neymar, who barked but didn't bite.
“He wasn’t really going anywhere,” said Hall, who was converted into a right back in 2009. “He was just coming inside and he got stuffed every time. Overall we did a great job defensively.”
Hall, now in his second year in MLS, wasn't aware Neymar would be attacking on his side of the field. In watching some Santos matches on television, Hall knew the Brazilian youngster liked to roam in the attack. He did little of that on Saturday.
“I just wanted to stand my ground and keep my feet,” Hall said. “I thought I did a good job because he really didn’t do anything.”
Hall did a good enough job that the two players exchanged jerseys at the final whistle -- of the first half. Both played the full 90 minutes, but still chose halftime as the moment to acknowledge one another during one of the most interesting battles on the pitch in the first half.
“The Red Bulls defenders were very strong,” Neymar said in the postgame press conference. “[Hall] is a hard worker on the field just like me and I was glad to switch jerseys. In that moment, all the animosity on the field disappears.”
Although Neymar complained the referee didn't call the fouls he usually gets in Brazil, he still was able to put on a show. That included an audacious multiple step-over move against Hall midway through the opening half, reminiscent of Robinho’s highlight-reel quality step-overs.
“Obviously, you don’t want to get shown up,” Hall said. “He’s a flashy player and he’s going to do that stuff. But the crowd loves it. He brought the crowd alive every time he touched the ball.”
U.S. national team left back Jonathan Bornstein is praised to this day for his work on Argentine superstar Lionel Messi in a 2007 Copa América match against Argentina. So perhaps it is Hall’s turn to make an international career out of shutting down a young world star and earn a national team call-up?
“I stopped Neymar so I should,” kidded Hall. “I still have a lot of work to do. He’s a great player and as far as team effort, we did great defensively.”
With similar performances from Hall in 2010, a post-World Cup call-up would be no joke.