Questions for Once A Metro
B&RU: The New York Red Bulls seemed satisfied with their team from last year, and chose not to make any large changes to the team. Now that we are a month into the season, do you agree with that decision, or was there grumbling in the fanbase?
OaM: I agreed with it. If you look at the league's best teams, it's not just money that gets you wins -- contra the rest of the world -- it's continuity and style, too.
The issue with the Red Bulls so far this season is a lack of vision as far as how they want to play. Mike Petke still doesn't seem to know what he wants to do with Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, Peguy Luyindula or the Jonny Steele/Bobby Convey left midfield tandem.
The obvious alignment, to me, would be a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-1-1, with Dax McCarty, Luyindula and Cahill making up the central midfield with Henry up front. That gets Henry closer to goal, allows McCarty to break up plays and kickstart a counter, lets Luyindula create and Cahil make the runs into the box he does so well.
Instead, Henry has been used as a playmaker, Cahill a target forward and more has been asked of McCarty offensively. They've stayed in games like that, but I can't help but feel it's not an optimal lineup.
B&RU: Picking up ex-Toronto FC players has rarely been a successful method of constructing a team. How have Bobby Convey and Richard Eckersley performed so far, and what are your expectations for them this season?
OaM: Convey has been decent, but not great. He's been getting minutes over Jonny Steele at left midfield, but he doesn't seem a clear upgrade. Eckersley has improved greatly over the disaster that was the Vancouver Whitecaps season opener. If that sounds like he's been impressing, you don't know how bad he was against Vancouver.
Convey has a modest salary number and will help the team be competitive in all the myriad of competitions the Red Bulls are in this year, so I'm not worried about him.
I am worried about Eckersley, though. He's being paid handsomely for lackluster performances thus far, and while the sample size is relatively small, the Red Bulls' brain trust seemed to choose Eckersley and Spanish centerback Armando over Markus Holgersson. The Red Bulls were up against the salary cap and Holgersson was due a considerable raise, but it's possible they could've kept him around instead of signing Armando or Eckersley.
For my money, I'd rather have Holgersson than Armando and Eckersley.
B&RU: With NYCFC coming into the league next season, what is the general impression of Red Bulls fans towards them? Confidence, fear, angst, etc.?
Well, at least one NYCFC "supporter" thinks we're scared, but he's misunderstanding our feelings on the situation.
For me, and many others, we resent the entire operation. To me, it feels like Garber and company want a do over in New York -- one that kowtows to a group of people who think their MLS is a backwater and unworthy of their attention -- without taking the temperature on New York soccer first.
Because the thing is, I wonder where the fans are. There's plenty of money, sure, but that doesn't mean they can make people care. I realize the Red Bulls haven't taken off with everyone, and I know there's a reason for that and I know New York is a huge place with tons of people. And I also realize why MLS puts another team in New York -- TV money, increased media exposure, greater market penetration -- but NYCFC just doesn't seem like the answer.
The Cosmos are trying to do the right things and I think Garber would have gotten what he wanted -- a New York team that could capture the imaginations of those who never got into the Red Bulls -- by "promoting" them. At the end of the day, that's way more valuable to MLS than a one-time $100 million expansion fee.
At the end of the day, I think it'll be good for the Red Bulls, as NYCFC isn't everyone's cup of tea either. But it's sort of like the feeling when an ex-girlfriend starts dating someone exactly like you. Like, if I wasn't good for you, how is this going to end any better?
B&RU: Finally, could you give me a projected lineup and predicted score for the first game in this year's Atlantic Cup.
OaM: Robles; Miller, Armando, Olave, Kimura; Convey, McCarty, Luyindula, Sam; Henry, Wright-Phillips
2-1 Red Bulls
Questions for Black and Red United
OaM: D.C. United made a number of moves in the off-season, including one for former Red Bull Fabian Espindola. How have those new guys settled in? How is Espindola doing?
B&RU: The team has made progress over the past couple of games, especially the tie against the Chicago Fire and the win against the New England Revolution. However, there is plenty of room for improvement. Only in the last game did Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell show the type of defensive play expected of two players earned a combined $450,000. Fabian Espindola has been playing well, but Eddie Johnson is yet to find his scoring touch. This weekend's game against the Red Bulls would be a perfect time to put it all together.
OaM: How much slack does Ben Olson have this year? Not to rub it in (well, maybe a little), but last year's D.C. United squad was awful on a transcendent level. This year might be better, but if United is near the bottom again, do they start looking for a new coach?
B&RU: If United is near the bottom of the table again this season, it is almost certain that Ben Olsen will be gone. Unlike after last season, Olsen's contract expires at the end of the 2014 season, and the team's leadership will have to take a hard look at this season and at the performance of Ben Olsen, his staff, and general manager Dave Kasper. However, I think he gets the whole season unless the locker room turns on him.
OaM: A lot gets made of the Cascadia Cup matches between Portland and Seattle and the San Jose Earthquakes-LA Galaxy rivalry gets a lot of media play, too. But I think we'd both agree that D.C.-New York is a big deal (just look at the players who have suited up for either side, or both, it's like a who's who of modern American soccer history). Do you feel like the rivalry is getting the shaft from the league?
B&RU: I think that the rivalry definitely does not get the respect it deserves, but I think its also some of our own making. Other than 2012, it's been awhile since both teams have been good at the same time, and that can erode a rivalry in the minds of the general public. But as the 2012 playoffs should have reminded everyone, this rivalry is still one of the league's best. But hey, at least its not the Trillium Cup.
OaM: Line-up? Predictions?
Bill Hamid; Christian, Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin; Chris Rolfe, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson.