Final Eight Matches Pivotal for Red Bulls Organization

A hurricane was barreling down on Harrison, New Jersey, fittingly with the name found on many-a-nametag in many-a-diner throughout the surrounding area: Irene.  In preparation for the storm the Red Bulls postponed their highly anticipated, sold-out match against the LA Galaxy – the league’s best side – until the fourth of October.  The storm came.  The storm went.  And in typical Red Bulls fashion, the whole thing ended in a draw.

That’s the kind of season it has been for RBNY.  They have been dominant. They have been dreadful.  But most of the time they have slogged along their MLS campaign, leaving their dedicated fans uninspired as they head back over the Jackson Street Bridge.  They are, in effect, Old West gunfighters sporting bullet-less guns.  All they can do is draw.

They’ve had their excuses.  Ridiculous west coast road trips.  Seemingly half the roster called into international duty.  A midseason Emirates Cup tournament in London.  Injuries up and down the roster.  Manager Hans Backe constantly excusing poor play.  The complete lack of a professional goalkeeper on the roster.  But while these excuses might be enough to excuse their falling from the top of the Eastern Conference table, they do not explain how a team so expensively talented is now clinging for their postseason lives.

What does explain it?  Plain, old-fashioned poor play.  They are not a very good team.

When Thierry Henry hasn’t been shuffled around the field to cover midfield woes, he’s been a consistent strike threat.  But outside Henry, the ever-present Joel Lindpere and the injured Luke Rodgers, that can’t be said of another player.  Rafa Marquez has shoddily-anchored a porous backline that guarantee opponents a goal off any free kick inside twenty-five yards.  Juan Agudelo has been unable to fill the shoes left vacant by Rodgers’ nagging ailments.  The pace is there but the goals are not.  (This character trait is being trademarked by US strikers.)  The trade of DeRo for Dax did not stabilize the center of the field, as intended, and the loss of Solli has left the flank susceptible to attack.  Tainio, Ballouchy, Miller…etc.  Average players at best.

The Red Bulls have eight games remaining in the 2011 regular season campaign and it’s safe to say they’re the most important eight games in the history of the organization.  Should they continue to falter, missing out on the playoffs and leaving the league’s premier facility vacant in late October, one has to believe that will spell the end of the Backe era in Harrison, NJ.  And other than Lindpere, Rodgers and Henry, I can’t imagine a single player on the roster will be safe either.

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