Red Bulls get a leg up on 2010

New York overcomes minor errors for big-time win against Chicago

The
Red Bulls entered Saturday night’s match-up with Chicago hoping to wipe the
foul taste of a disastrous 2009 out of their mouths.

After
finishing in last place just five months ago, the club’s 1-0 win over the Fire at
least erased the memories of last season for one night.

“Coming
off a very good pre-season, this was important for us,” said midfielder Danleigh
Borman. “This was the way we needed to start.”

The
Red Bulls clearly showed that they can and will be competitive, especially
within the cauldron of Red Bull Arena. The game was marked by some sloppy play
and jitters, marks of a team coming playing its first real game in a new
stadium.

“We
forced it a little too much in the attacking game,” head coach Hans Backe said.
“We had some unforced errors.”

Unforced
errors or not, the Red Bulls made the most of their chances. After an evenly
played first half, the deadlock was broken five minutes before the half when
Joel Lindpere pounced on a bouncing header from Juan Pablo Angel and hammered a
shot past a diving Andrew Dykstra.

“He’s
a friggin' pit bull out there,” right back Jeremy Hall said of Lindpere.
“Offensively and defensively he links up so well and does so many things for us
in settling the team down.”

Also
impressive for the Red Bulls were the long stretches of composure they showed,
spraying the ball wide to Richards and maintaining possession well. With a more
defensive-minded Borman on the left wing, much of the Red Bulls’ attack was
funneled down the side of Richards on the right flank. It was Richards’ ability
to move wide and stretch the Chicago defense that helped maintain steady
pressure on Dykstra and the Chicago goal throughout the night.

“Coach
allows me to express myself in the final-third,” Richards said.

The
Red Bulls both defended and attacked in numbers, and controlled the middle of
the field for much of the night.

Several
times, however, the Fire managed to break through the New York backline and
found ample opportunity to look dangerous. Following an exhibition opener where
he made several big saves, goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul displayed strong control
of his area. In the 61st minute, Coundoul made the save of the
night, diving to deny Mike Banner on a free kick opportunity from just outside
the box and then making a save on the Fire’s follow-up shot.

“Bouna
had a couple really good saves out there,” Hall said. “In particular, that free
kick. Bouna is incredibly athletic out there.”

But
the talk of the night was the first league game in Red Bull Arena and the crowd
of 24,572 that filled the new stadium almost to capacity. Spirited by the crowd
and the constant urging of the fans, the players felt the effect of the home
crowd for the first time in league play. With a European feel to the game and
the backing of the singing of the home faithful behind the goal, the Red Bulls
have a home field advantage for the first time in the franchise’s 14 year
history.

Backe
said that an atmosphere like the one on Saturday night is worth “six or seven
points” over the course of the season. It is a point that the Red Bulls’
players concurred with.

“An
unbelievable environment to play in,” said defender Mike Petke. “I hate clichés
– the twelfth man – but this really is [just that].”