Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from a tale of two halves in Houston
First, the really big talking point: That was a clear red card on Jamison Olave.
Two-legged scissor-action from behind, and nowhere near the ball. This is how ankles get broken:
(Here's a blurry old link to David Ferreira getting his ankle snapped from two seasons ago on nearly the exactly same kind of tackle.)
Omar Cummings was lucky he was able to get up and walk away from that one.
Here are three things we learned about a testy 2-2 draw between the Red Bulls and Dynamo in Houston:
1. New York's fullback situation is pretty grim
Markus Holgersson is actually a very good right back in terms of positional understanding and the ability to defend against combination play. He also supports the attack pretty damn well, usually getting into good spots to act as an outlet, or simply another friendly face in position to get a touch and keep cycling the ball.
What he's bad at is closing down service from the flank, due mostly to his lack of quickness. On the other side, David Carney has thus far proved to be prone to mental errors.
Both of those issues fed into Ricardo Clark's opener, as Holgersson got scorched by Brad Davis, and Carney's clearance wasn't actually a clearance:
Holgersson is likely to shift back inside with Olave out, with Brandon Barklage coming on. Barklage isn't as good against combo play, and can be reckless pushing forward, but is actually a better defender in isolation.
Left back may be much more worrying. New York's had a series of injuries this year that have left Carney as perhaps the only legitimate choice. At this point they just have to hope he's done with the thoughtless mistakes.
2. New York are still in a position to advance from this
Davis said it on the NBC postgame: Red Bull Arena is a little bit bigger, and the game will probably be spread out. The team that moves the ball better will give themselves chances not only to get goals, but to dictate where on the field the game is played and at what pace.
"That favors Houston!" you're thinking, "because New York are a counterattacking team!"
No. New York's counterattack is lethal, but they're also a very good passing team who can ping the ball from side-to-side and open you up. They've used that gambit more often at home than on the road, but even on the cozy BBVA Compass Stadium field they weren't afraid to combine:
That came at the end of an eight-pass sequence that went from one touchline to the other, back again and then finally across the box. It traveled about 80 yards verticallly as well, eventually pulling a central defender out of the middle and into isolation vs. Thierry Henry.
(Take a moment to appreciate the Peguy Luyindula pass at the start of this GIF, by the way. It's fantastic)
Mike Petke will have his team doing that (or attempting to) for the full 90 minutes on Wednesday.
3. Will Bruin as a target forward
Olave's loss is almost immeasurable for the Red Bulls not just because he's their best defender, but because his absence so drastically changes how the guys next to and around him can (should?) play.
Neither Holgersson nor Ibrahim Sekagya can match Bruin physically, especially in the 18 where he's bigger, stronger and quicker than them. The Dynamo aren't a "get as many crosses into the box as possible" team, but maybe in the second leg they should be.
Here are Bruin's touches on Sunday:
Only three in the penalty area, and only two more besides that in actual dangerous spots, is not nearly enough. The Dynamo have to find him, and he has to make good on the faith they've shown him in what's really been an up-and-down year.
For New York, the counter can't be "we'll defend him in the 18." It has to be "we can't let them get Bruin in the 18."
If they're not able to do that, it'll be another orange November in the Eastern playoffs.