New York’s 2-1 win over Houston on Wednesday ended the Red Bulls’ four-game slide in league play, and showed the team can still control the flow and pace of the game against a solid Western Conference opponent. And now that the Red Bulls have exceeded their win total from last season just one third of the way through 2010, we take a quick at four points worth considering.
1. There’s Only One Juan Pablo Angel – All game long, the Colombian striker struggled. But in one magical moment, all was forgiven. “I think everyone could feel, when I stepped up to take the free kick, that there was so much energy in the arena, and that this was the very last chance,” Angel said. Said Danleigh Borman: “You play the game for moments like this.”
2. Improved Play – En route to their 5-1 start, the Red Bulls often won ugly and usually were outplayed by their opponent. But in their recent four game slide, on at least two occasions, the Red Bulls were clearly the better team and lost. On Wednesday night, the team controlled the midfield, had the majority of chances and won. “I think, probably, this was the game we played that gave us the most chances so far,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said.
3. Tchani Changes – When Dane Richards was subbed out in the 15th minute with a hamstring injury, the move allowed Sinisa Ubiparipovic to move wide right and Tony Tchani came in centrally. Tchani showed poise and precision in the passing game and looked like the team’s most creative player, even with center midfielder Joel Lindpere on the field.
4. Where’s The Support? – Since the MLS opener against Chicago, Red Bull Arena has yet to be truly packed. New York fans need to belly up to the bar and begin to support the franchise and the team. Imagine that Angel free kick goal with a crowd of 20,000 fans on hand. Goose bump stuff.
GK – Bouna Coundoul: Can’t be faulted on the goal which was an individual mistake of the backline. Controlled the area and numerous Houston crosses very well. Rating: 6.5
D- Chris Albright: What a nice off-season pickup Albright has been for the team. Now close to 100 percent and healthy, Albright defends one-on-one very well and moves into the attack fluidly. Rating: 7
D - Mike Petke: Was burned on the Brian Ching goal in the 65th minute, and that overshadows a decent effort. Rating: 5.5
D – Tim Ream: After an own goal last game and a couple shaky performances, the rookie bounced back against Houston. Won the ball well, held possession and jump started the counterattack. Rating: 7
D- Danleigh Borman: Play like Wednesday night is proof of his worth to the team. Team defends well and is pesky in the attack. Rating: 6.5
M-Dane Richards: Injury in the 15th minute was unfortunate, as Richards looked dangerous down the right flank. Rating: None
M – Seth Stammler: Quiet night, with lots of dirty work and ball control. Rating: 6
M- Joel Lindpere: Subbed out quickly after halftime with a calf injury, but he may be the best midfield engine in MLS. Rating: 6.
M – Sinisa Ubiparipovic: Won’t get the headlines, but this was a scintillating game for “Ubi.” Was constantly dangerous and brought some defensive bite to the flanks. Has clearly improved this year. Rating: 8
F – Juan Pablo Angel: But for his wonderstrike in stoppage time, Angel could have been the game’s goat. Blew numerous opportunities to score and his work rate seemed low. Rating: 6.5
F – John Wolyniec: Prototypical effort by Wolyniec, characterized by plenty of hard work and effort. Rating: 6
M – Tony Tchani: Showed good poise and vision as the replacement for Richards. Still needs to improve his work rate and overall effort, but the pieces are clearly there. Rating: 6.5
M- Jeremy Hall: Victim of some questionable calls, but he showed some good defensive bite down that left flank. Rating: 6
F – Conor Chinn: Won the ball and was fouled to set up the game winner. Looked dangerous in his brief appearance. Rating: 6
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.