Welcome back to another installment of View from South Ward! After a long and deafeningly quiet off season, Red Bulls nation celebrated the opening of their new season last week by releasing their new blue-and-lucky-yellow away kit at a celebration at Stage 48 in New York City. This was the pinnacle of hope and optimism for the coming season, the first season in which RBNY has something to defend, after winning the 2013 Supporter’s Shield.
However, the celebration was cut off early, almost as soon as the Red Bulls hit the field in Vancouver against the new and improved Whitecaps. Too many mistakes by the folk hero coach Mike Petke, and by the players he placed in the lineup, starting with the aggressive yellow card taken by new comer Armando, and continuing with Rich Eckersley’s handball which resulted in a Whitecaps penalty kick conversion.
After that, any more review is rote.
Here’s the bottom line. Petke mismanaged his team, and made a visible error from the time he named his starting XI, to the insanity of waiting altogether too long to fix his mistake through substitutions.
Me? I bore witness to this while standing in Red Bull Arena’s Sky Box lounge, where my beer of the match was New Jersey’s own Flying Fish Hopfish IPA, for their kickoff viewing party. I turned to one of my fellow season ticket holders when they flashed New York’s starting lineup on the screen and saw Peguy Luyindula starting over Bradley Wright-Philips, and stated that Petke will regret that decision. I’m not sure what the thinking was, but Luyindula has been more effective in a central attacking position, rather than up top. And when Petke finally removed Peguy from the field of play, in favor of Wright-Philips, he was rewarded with a goal, albeit in garbage time.
Now, let’s rewind a moment to last season’s playoff series against Houston Dynamo. Petke had the same momentary lapse of reason, keeping Luyindula on the bench, instead of using him as a center midfielder where he spent the closing days of the 2013 season. It’s the most productive I had ever seen Peguy. His ball distribution was excellent, and finally RBNY had someone in the midfield that could effectively push the play to Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry. Instead, the Red Bulls were unable to finish when it mattered most, just like they weren’t in Vancouver.
If I were in Petke’s head, here’s what I would have done. It was a given that both Henry and Jamison Olave were not going to be playing in this match, since BC Place is turf. That said, Cahill was chomping at the bit to start this season, and played like it for long stretches, so he starts. Bradley Wright-Philips’ speed would have come in handy, so there’s your second striker. Eric Alexander, my favorite whipping boy, should have sat the bench in lieu of either Peguy in the mid-field, or pre-season stand out Ruben Bover, he of the sniper quality shots and pristine distribution. Richard Eckersley will work out at full back, but with Olave out, Roy Miller, or even Kosuke Kimura, should have started in his stead.
At the end of the day, it’s one game, and Petke is still young in his position. He tends to learn from his mistakes quickly, and always seems more determined to achieve perfection after a loss like this. Want an example? Let’s look no further than the 3-2 loss to Chivas USA last season. The point is that now is not the time for panic and dismay. Now is the time to refocus on the Colorado Rapids, and the Red Bulls home opener.
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Main Photo Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports