HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls arguably deserved more this past weekend given a strong offensive effort in the second half, but Saturday night’s 1-1 tie against a tough and determined Houston Dynamo did produce some bright spots … and at least one question mark for the club.
1. Passing The Buck?
Houston’s equalizing goal in the 50th minute was a model of miscommunication by New York. A goal kick by Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall found the head of teammate Will Bruin, who flicked the ball over the Red Bulls back line. It looked as though New York central defender Rafa Márquez had the beat on the ball, but instead he pulled up just outside the penalty area.
As Márquez slowed down, goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul — who was slowly coming out — was caught in no-man’s land. Houston’s Cam Weaver raced past and fired his shot into the net. Márquez perhaps should have cleared it, but Coundoul could have sent the ball out of bounds. The only thing worse than the miscommunication on the field was the blame game off the field following the match.
WATCH: Weaver equalizes for Houston
“I yelled to him [to] pass me back the ball,” Coundoul said.
Márquez, however, disagreed.
“I didn’t hear any shouts or screams by anyone to call out for the ball,” Márquez said, shrugging.
[inline_node:332740]2. Dwayne’s World
Dwayne De Rosario's halftime insertion changed the match. An elite player who can orchestrate the attack, the newly acquired midfielder finally gives the Red Bulls a player who can feed Thierry Henry the ball in dangerous places.
“I could see the difference with De Rosario in the second half with his short, short passes,” head coach Hans Backe said.
If De Rosario can form chemistry with Henry and Juan Agudelo up top, the New York attack will be deadly.
3. The Benefits To Dane
Right winger Dane Richards benefitted from the addition of De Rosario. Richards scored the only New York goal off a tight pass from the Canadian international, but he was also a handful in the second half due to the space and attention that Houston paid the Red Bulls' new acquisition.
“You could see when [De Rosario] came in, things really opened up,” Richards told MLSsoccer.com.
4. Raised Expectations
By adding a player like De Rosario, one of MLS’ elite playmakers over the past decade, New York now have a stacked midfield. In other words, there are no more excuses and now is the time for this club to make a run at the MLS Cup.
“I think we have a very good chance of winning, but as I said, there are other strong teams,” Red Bulls sporting director Erik Solér said. “I’m quite confident that we will be top-three as we were last year.”
After coming off a bottom-of-the-table finish in 2009, just making the MLS Cup Playoffs last year was enough — never mind finishing first in the Eastern Conference. This year, though, “top three” probably won’t be good enough – not with the starting XI Solér has pieced together.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer