Monday NY Gaffer: Four-game road swing finally over

Juan Agudelo - July 2, 2011

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This week’s Monday Gaffer looks at yet another tie, Saturday night’s 2-2 draw against San Jose. The splitting of the points on the road ends New York’s four-game road trip through Portland, Seattle, Chicago and finally, this past weekend in Northern California.

Fit to be Tied – It’s better than losses, but the Red Bulls seem to be racking up nothing but ties. Eight times in the last 11 games, New York has earned a draw. The good news is that the vast majority of these results came on the road and with a number of regulars away with their national teams for the Gold Cup.

Although Rafa Márquez will miss at least two more weeks due to his hamstring injury, the Red Bulls should see Thierry Henry (flu) and Luke Rodgers (plantar fasciitis) return to the field this Wednesday against Toronto.

“We have to be realistic,” assistant head coach Jan Halvorsen said. “We played four games on the road. As long as we get points.”

Bulls Get Tripped Up – Head coach Hans Backe calls them “individual mistakes” and the Red Bulls succumbed to them twice against San Jose.

In the first half, goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul did well to corral a corner kick in the area, only to drop the service, allowing Khari Stephenson to equalize. Then in the second half, Steven Lenhart split the centerback duo of Carlos Mendes and Tim Ream to powerfully head home a cross into the area, leaving Coundoul no chance to stop the effort.

The Red Bulls have been victimized by lapses of concentration and after dominating the first half, midfielder Dax McCarty said the team should have had a halftime lead. “I don’t think San Jose could come close to us,” McCarty said. But for the individual mistakes, New York could have had three points.

McCarty’s Debut – Acquired last Monday in a trade that sent Dwayne De Rosario to D.C. United, McCarty played an inspired first game for his new club. Having already played a critical role in FC Dallas advancing to the MLS Cup final last year, McCarty is a young player in his prime who can provide a good presence on the field, capable of winning balls and starting the counterattack. 

“I think it’s going to be a great fit for myself,” McCarty said. “Hopefully I can prove to the fans and the coaches and my teammates that I deserve to be here and I can help them win.”

It’s Over – After four straight league away games, the team now returns to the confines of Red Bull Arena for matches this week against Toronto FC and D.C. United. With the chance to play before the atmosphere of the South Ward and defend their home turf, six points has to be on the minds of New York.

This was a tough road trip for the Red Bulls mentally, physically and emotionally and now they can set things right at home and begin making a push for the top of the Eastern Conference.

“I think all the players look forward to that,” Halvorsen said.

With a near full roster available again, there are no excuses this week for the Red Bulls.

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer