HARRISON, N.J. – With French flags dotting the stands amid chatter that next time New York step into Red Bull Arena, it will be with Thierry Henry in the starting XI, the Red Bulls looked anemic against. D.C. United on Saturday, struggling to score.
The Red Bulls certainly could have used the famed French striker's talents against D.C. as the hosts handed United goalkeeper Troy Perkins just his second clean-sheet of the season. It was a frustrating effort from strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Salou Ibrahim, who found themselves with golden opportunities to tally but failed to do so. In the end, the 0-0 tie with United was perhaps deserved.
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“We really didn’t test the goalkeeper,” Angel said. “I don’t [really] remember him making a save. Our passing wasn’t good.”
Head coach Hans Backe lamented the lack of pace up front for New York, noting that both Angel and Ibrahim are target players who can’t stretch the defense. The midfield, he said, suffered with Seth Stammler looking noticeably gassed by the second half. Even Joel Lindpere, the creative force of the midfield, “couldn’t really go for the final ball,” said Backe.
“Possession wise, we never got in the flow of the game,” defender Tim Ream said.
The midfield got some good wide play, in particular in the first half. Danleigh Borman consistently found space on the left side via well-timed over-lapping runs. Yet New York just seemed to lack the killer instinct to get the ball in the back of the net. A more evenly played second half saw the Red Bulls limp their way to a draw.
The forwards flubbed on their limited chances. Once in the first half, Angel found himself just yards in front of goal upon receiving a ball from Lindpere on the left flank, but he sent his shot inches wide of the goal. In the 55th minute, on a nearly identical play, Ibrahim sent a Lindpere cross just beyond the far post. It was a night of wasted opportunities for New York.
Even the insertion of Mac Kandji, who made his first appearance for the team since mid-April after suffering a broken foot in practice, did little to help the team’s scoring woes.
Two weeks ago, New York scored three goals in the second half on the road against Kansas City. Since then in two league games, the Red Bulls have scored just once. Need a sign of their ineptitude on Saturday? They mustered 15 shots in the game but placed just three on frame.
The Red Bulls aren’t quite in panic mode yet, despite their offensive woes over the past two games. Perhaps some of that is due to the fact that the team expects to unveil one of the world’s most dynamic strikers to the media on Thursday. But New York also think that it is just a scoring funk that they will work themselves out of.
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen,” Borman said of scoring goals. “At least we’re creating the chances.”
There is a silver lining to the game: New York lifted the Atlantic Cup for the second time since the inception of the 2001 trophy, which is given to the winner of the derby with D.C. United.
“One good thing is that we won the Atlantic Cup, our first title of the season,” Backe said with a smirk.
Perhaps a certain Frenchman can help earn them a far more meaningful trophy at season’s end.