Shep Unleashed DL2

Shep Unleashed: May 22

I am not an art critic.  When I look at the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, it looks pretty ugly to me.  There are countless other paintings, sculptures and forms of art that I love.  But when I hear people extolling the beauty of the Mona Lisa, I think, what are they seeing that I don’t?

It is much the same way I felt when I watched the Red Bulls performance against Columbus and then read the post game quotes from the locker room.

“Probably our best performance so far in this league, if you look at the possession, if you look at creating chances and putting a team like Columbus under pressure like that. “ – Hans Backe

“I personally felt that it was probably the best game we played in terms of possession and we did create some chances” – Juan Pablo Angel

Okay, I am being sarcastic and Hans Backe added this, “ Two and a half individual mistakes killed the game for us and you can never in a way train to get rid of individual mistakes. “  He is absolutely right in terms of possession, creating chances and having individual mistakes ruin the game.  These are the challenges he faces in terms of building the team to succeed.  I do admit, when Eddie Gaven so easily found the space to be unmarked on the opening  goal……..I started thinking of Thierry Henry.  If he was watching the game……..was he salivating in anticipation of coming to Major League Soccer?  I mean, if Eddie Gaven can elude defenders like that, what could Thierry Henry do?  But that remains for all of us to wait and hope for.  He will find it a better and more difficult league to play in than he thought.  But he will be the best player to ever play in MLS and bring star power with him as well.

Speaking of star power, Juventus was an appetizing break from league games.  A spectacular atmosphere in Red Bull Arena and a myriad of stars to watch; Trezeguet, Del Piero, Diego, Amauri…….and a Red Bulls team out to play!  This is what we all want to see from the team, a committed, fluid, 90 minutes of action.  Against the likes of Del Piero and Trezeguet rather than Gaven and Lenhart, it makes you wonder about the possibilities.  We can all debate the merits and relative incentive for players from both teams in a “friendly” game like this.  But having played in many similar games, I can tell you one thing.  There is no such thing as a friendly.  Red Bulls beat Juventus resoundingly and they have every reason to be proud of it. A much needed confidence boost going forward in the US Open Cup against Colorado and league play against New England.

One last thought for the week.  I have seen enough of Erik Soler and Hans Backe to know this.  They have carefully and studiously evaluated the players and team.  They did not come in with a preconceived notion of what to do or a knee jerk reaction regarding how to get it done.  They are smart, savvy, clever and experienced when it comes to every aspect of the game.  The team roster, with some changes, is basically the same as the one that was horrific last season.  I expect changes and I expect this Red Bulls team to finally be on the right path towards being great.

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