Red Bull

Highlights: Own goal decisive as New York rises to top of Supporters’ Shield chase

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The week-in, week-out results haven’t been overwhelming, but group them all together and you have a team that’s now leading the Supporters’ Shield race. After their 1-0 win this evening at Red Bull Arena, that’s where New York sit, a four-game winning streak leaving Mike Petke’s team one point clear at the top of the league.

Credit the first year coach for getting his team re-focused after Aug. 25th’s loss at Chivas USA, with wins over D.C. United, Houston, and Toronto preceding today’s 1-0 over Dallas. But to get today’s result, New York needed some unexpected help from FCD midfielder Erick, whose inexplicable play of a Jonny Steele cross made his 76th minute own goal the decider. As you’ll see in the highlights, above, it was one of the most beguiling touches you’ll ever see, with some kind of lack of balance, spasm, or brain cramp leading to New York’s only goal.

To New York’s credit, they were the slightly better team throughout, but there are a number of games you saw that about a team can’t claim more than a point. On Sunday, Red Bull needed some unexpected help from a particularly generous source.

With the result, New York are now three points clear of Sporting KC in the East. Still, the only win they have over a playoff team since Aug. 3’s 3-2 at Sporting Park is their victory over the then-collapsing Dynamo. In that sense, Red Bull’s rise hasn’t been particularly impressive, even if all the points count the same.

When they visit West-leading Seattle next Sunday, we’ll get a better idea of what Petke’s team’s capable of, but until then, the Red Bulls have the league’s second best attack, a defense that’s allowing 1.20 goals per game, and the most points in Major League Soccer.

German club sends eight players into the box from kick-off and scores

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Kick-offs in soccer are fairly standard.

Normally, teams simply play the ball backwards looking to begin the match with a bout of possession.

Sometimes, possession is ceded in favor of lumping the ball towards the corner flag to try and pin the opposition back.

And occasionally, a goal-hungry striker will just have a go at it alone.

This past Saturday, however, German association club RasenBallsport Leipzig e. V. created a new approach when they lined up eight players to dash into the box against 3. Liga opponents Stuttgart II.

The risky move worked like a charm as the long ball was skimmed on to Mattias Morys, who crossed to the onrushing Daniel Frahn to finish from five yards out.

The total time for the entire play? Nine seconds.

Leipzig went on to win the match, 3-1, proving once again that Red Bull gives you wiiings.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrBnTlesjHk&w=420&h=315]

Thierry Henry overhead kick sinks Montréal

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New York was part of a four-team cluster at the top of the East before hosting Montréal on Wednesday, but as we discussed pre-game, there were still reasons to doubt whether the Red Bulls were worth of such a lofty status. After their 2-1 win over the Impact, thought, find some other place to cast those doubts. Along with Sporting Kansas City, they are the only team to beat Montréal this season.

And as predicted, it was the stars that pushed them over the top. Or, more readily, it was the star, with two Thierry Henry goals the difference between three points and the Red Bulls’ second loss of the season to the Impact.

The first was less Henry’s doing than the product of chaos created by a Justin Mapp turnover and an Eric Alexander shot:

The real jewel of Henry’s night was this one, an overhead kick that proved to be the game-winner:

It was exactly what we talked about before the game. At times New York tried to work wide-to-in, but without the personnel to take advantage, the Red Bulls didn’t have many ways to break down Montréal. But when all else fails, they have Cahill, they have Juninho, and they have Henry. And on Wednesday night, the league’s biggest star stepped up with a moment of class which few players would have the instincts to produce.

That’s not to say there weren’t some nervy moments. In stoppage time, Marco Di Vaio, who started the match on the bench, pulled Montréal within one. Seconds later, Di Vaio sent a chills through the Red Bull crowd, his shot from the middle of the area going off both posts while the linesman raised his flag.

It was never going to be easy against Montréal, but Red Bull got the win: their fourth in five, a victory that should momentarily confirm their place as a contender in the East. If they resort to their March selves, that could change, but for now, Mike Petke’s team is living up to its potential. And they’re tied with Houston atop the East.

MLS Preview: Montreal Impact at New York Red Bulls

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Ahead of tonight’s game at Red Bull Arena, New York has climbed to joint-top of the Eastern Conference (on points), but that statement requires a couple of caveats. The Red Bulls have played more games than Houston, Kansas City, and Montreal – the three teams also tied atop the East – and with recent wins over Philadelphia, Chicago, and New England, the team’s surge has been fueled by a fortunate stretch in the schedule.

Tonight, however, Mike Petke’s team can sweep aside those asterisks if they can beat the Impact at Red Bull Arena, a team they’ve already lost to once this season. But that 1-0 March loss in Montreal came during New York’s slow start, one that left them near the bottom of the East through the league’s opening weeks. If they can get a result against Montreal, the contrast between March and May will serve as clear evidence New York have turned things around.

Montreal’s only lost once this season, with Kansas City knocking them off last month at Sporting Park. Their points-per-game rate is better than any other team in the East, and only the Galaxy have allowed fewer than their seven goals. While some may yet harbor concerns Montreal’s is just a fast start, five points in three games since their KC wakeup call hint Marco Schallibaum’s team may yet stick around.

That’s bad news for the rest of the East, but against a Red Bull team that lacks any significant wide threats, it’s particularly troublesome news. The key to Montreal’s success has been a tight defense which, playing Patrice Bernier behind Davy Arnaud and Felipe Martins in midfield, locks down the middle of the part. Go wide, go around them, you might be able to do some damage, put try to go through the middle, and you’re unlikely to generate many chances. Attacks lead to turnovers lead to counters – Montreal’s plan’s not difficult to figure out. What’s harder is trying to comeback if you give up the first goal.

As it concerns breaking down the Impact. Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola venturing left could prove crucial. Players like Jonny Steele and Eric Alexander are going to have to more wingers than midfielders. Brandon Barklage and Roy Miller need to contribute going forward, and when they establish possession in the attacking third, Juninho’s rotations wide could setup crucial service, particularly from the right side.

This is where the limitations of this Red Bull team come into play. When you look at their squad, you see a lot of talent but not a lot of complementary parts, which leads to a lack of options for Mike Petke. Ultimately this team is dependent on its stars to step up, something that has worked in recent weeks. With Tim Cahill finally finding goals, New York has gone on a run.

With Cahill, Henry, and Juninho, New York has ways to get around Montreal’s advantages. Just like against any other opponent, if the Red Bulls put their stars in situations to succeed, they can derail the Impact. Whether they will or not might tell whether they truly deserve to be atop the East.

Video: Juninho kicks dead ball into Jimmy Nielsen’s chest; Nielsen sells it

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The uneven start to Juninho Pernambucano’s Major League Soccer career took an unexpected twist on Wednesday, though you’re going to read two distinct interpretations of this incident as it’s discussed in the coming days. Some people are going to focus on Juninho’s transgression. Others will dwell on the piece of impromptu theater Jimmy Nielsen performed at Red Bull Arena.

Let’s set the scene. It’s late in Harrison, and for almost 80 minutes, the Red Bulls have been trying to equalize Sporting’s 13th minute opener. Ahead of a late goal kick, Juninho goes to flip the ball back to Nielsen and decides to put a little extra on it. The ball ends up nailing Nielsen right below the collarbone, earning the Red Bull midfielder a straight red card.

As a television lawyer might say, those facts are undisputed. The different interpretations start with Juninho’s intentions. A sympathetic sort might think Juninho just tried pop the ball up by coming down underneath it. When he got too much of the ball, he inadvertently fires his “chip” into Nielsen’s chest.

That’s a reach given Juninho’s skill level. What’s more likely: That he hit the ball at Nielsen out of frustration with the keeper’s time-wasting? Or he mishit the ball and it happened to end up in the guy’s chest?

Given Nielsen’s response, you can see some people wishing the latter were true. The guy collapses, rolls around as if the ball nailed him in the face. It sure doesn’t look that way in the replay, though Nielsen does take Juninho’s attempt to avoid time-wasting and turns it against him. His act gets Juninho tossed and leaves the clock running for nearly two minutes, time Allen Chapman thankfully added at the end.

No doubt, whether he intended it or not, that’s a red card for Juninho. But seeing those shots of Nielsen lying on his side, eyes closed as if he just got George John’d, you can’t help but feel a little frustrated by the farce.

Juninho was going to get red carded, and any time you spend on the ground is just going to get tacked on at the end. Just get up already.

Here’s the footage: