Shep Unleashed

Shep Unleashed

This is my first column for the Red Bulls, so let me start with the positive before I disintegrate into scathing criticism.

Red Bull ownership has finally given me reason to hope for great things.  They have brought soccer people in with Erik Soler and Hans Backe, they have built a soccer stadium with Red Bull Arena and they have done it for soccer fans, who I would argue are the best and most knowledgeable in the country.  The atmosphere is electric and Red Bull Arena resonates with everything that makes the sport so great.  Until last weekend against the Seattle Sounders, the results were perfect, even though the play was not.

The Good- This was a battle between two teams whose confidence had been shaken by the previous week’s results. So overall, in general, the defensive effort was good.  In particular, Tim Ream bounced back from his nightmare in San Jose.  This is important, because Ream has shown the promise of becoming a very good central defender.  As with all young players, how they react to adversity is a critical element with regard to reaching their potential.  So good job by Ream to learn from rather than dwell on previous mistakes.  Danleigh Borman was good.  Solid work defensively and insightful in getting forward.  His crossing of the ball has shown marked improvement, bending and driving balls in rather than aimlessly floating them in.  On the other side, Jeremy Hall played well.  He will get better in terms of deciding when to get forward and when to take players on, but good job overall in making the transition from wide midfielder last week to right back against Seattle.

The Bad- Let’s start with the decisive goal.  In a game void of goal scoring opportunities, one sequence can determine the outcome.  Late in the game, an innocuous foul in the midfield and the team collectively fell asleep.  When the game is on the line, players have to be alert and focused, to anticipate and react.  No one stepped up to prevent the quick restart, no one stepped up to pressure the ball and the chip over the top to Montero never should have developed.  Game over.

The Ugly- At home in front of 18,000 fans and one………one weak shot on goal.  Kasey Keller had an easy night at the office. Attacking soccer is a function of two things – creation and utilization of space. Creation of space is done with good, smart, incisive running off the ball.  Fluidity, rhythm, intelligence in terms of when, where and how to make runs. Utilization of the space is accomplished with sharp, good touches and control of the ball with good passing.  Sharp and penetrating passes create goal scoring chances in the attacking third, not safe, square, non-threatening ones. Move the ball quickly, intelligently and know when to take players on.

The good news?  This game is finished and Columbus is up next.  Lindpere and Carl Robinson must contain Schelloto, Ream and Petke must mark Lenhart and collectively, Red Bull must come out attack minded.  Let Columbus know that they are coming into Red Bull Arena and they will be under attack.  A win on Thursday night and everything is back on track.

Shep Messing is a guest columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.