Drilling down on: at NY Red Bulls 3, D.C. United 2

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Man of the Match

Brandon Barklage (pictured) had not scored an MLS goal before Sunday. To get two in a rivalry contest. From the right back position, no less! Against his former team! Are you serious? What a story. NBC announcer Arlo White relayed the story Barklage told him, about crying when United manager Ben Olsen released him last year. Amazing stuff. Safe to say, Sunday is a night the young player will never, ever, ever forget.

Packaged for take-away

  • Thierry Henry couldn’t start but was on the bench for New York. He got into the match for 20 minutes and did shake loose for one left-footed shot that United ‘keeper Bill Hamid covered without a problem.
  • Well, nothing like a goal within the first 40 seconds to announce a big occasion. Chris Pontius’ well-timed near-post run left him perfectly positioned to head home Danny Cruz’s zinger of a cross. Just three minutes later, Dax McCarty nailed the crossbar at the other end. Game on!
  • Hard to say which Red Bulls defender let Pontius slip through unchallenged, but safe to say a lack of familiarity between center backs Heath Peace and Rafa Marquez (back into the lineup but not in his former midfield role) didn’t help.
  • This was the seventh back line variation for New York in seven games.
  • Barklage’s first-half equalizer for New York was about three parts want-to, two-parts athleticism and one part skill. It really was a moment to remember for the former United man, who was simply more aggressive in attacking the ball. He slipped in front of Dwayne De Rosario to bang in Joel Lindpere’s corner kick.
  • Mehdi Ballouchy started a little slowly but his influence slowly grew. United was outnumbered in midfield by the Red Bull’s 4-5-1, which gave Ballouchy ample opportunities on the ball, usually in between McCarty and Lindpere, who was playing slightly higher. The visitors were clearly having trouble tracking the waves of attackers; De Rosario (attacking midfielder) and even Pontius (the second striker in United’s 4-4-2) were required to retreat deeply into their own end to defend at times.
  • Connor Lade’s presence in the Red Bulls’ midfield adds an element of speed and general hustle and hurry. With Lade, McCarty, Ballouchy, Lindpere and Jan Gunnar Solli in the center third, the home team’s midfield becomes so much more mobile. When Marquez plays in there, his passing is usually sharp, but the teams becomes slower on defense and occasionally too ponderous on attack.
  • Lindpere was all over the place, a useful two-way presence. But nothing unusual there. Since his atypically sluggish opening month Lindpere has been back to his busy-body best.
  • United manager Ben Olsen told NBC’s Kyle Martino at the break: “They are throwing crazy numbers forward, and it’s never easy to defend that.”
  • All the possession for the Red Bulls kept De Rosario from being much of a factor.
  • The entrance of United DP Branko Boskovic immediately improved possession for the visitors. De Rosario moved into a second striker spot while Boskovic took the attacking midfield role, but dropped further back and kept himself better connected with Perry Kitchen. The visitors looked beaten before Boskovic came on, but enjoyed the enlivened appearance of an entirely different team over the final 25 minutes. Perhaps asking the young Kitchen to untangle the midfield issues is just too much at this point, because Boskovic did so without delay.
  • All that above about Ballouchy … well, once Boskovic changed the game, and once the tiring Lindpere was withdrawn, Ballouchy was barely seen or heard from.
  • Having flown in from a mid-week match in Vancouver, the Red Bulls were clearly a pooped team by the 75th minute or so. United, having not played during the week, was much fresher.
  • Pontius may have been offside on United’s second goal. If he wasn’t, the culprit was definitely Marquez, who was two steps behind the other three Red Bulls defenders, failing to hold the line properly.