It was a well-deserved and hard-fought draw on Saturday night for the Red Bulls, their 1-1 result with the Galaxy ensuring that they stay in first place in the Eastern Conference. The Monday Gaffer looks at perhaps the Red Bulls' toughest challenge of the year thus far.
1. Titi All Over the Field — Thierry Henry's fourth-minute goal, a composed move on the ball and then an even cooler finish, is what the scribes will focus on from the match. But more than that goal, he pulled the strings of the attack and ran the show for the Red Bulls. His combination one-touch play with the midfield consistently sprung Joel Lindpere down the left flank and Dwayne De Rosario centrally. It was the little things — and a big goal — from Henry on Saturday night that helped make the offense click, in particular in the early going.
2. The Wide-Open Field — The 1-1 score line doesn’t reflect how good and even the match was, or the end-to-end style of play.
“We said at halftime that this was an unbelievably open game," Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. "I think if you look at both teams' balance in midfield, it is probably eight attacking midfielder players on the pitch and then you have at least two fullbacks attacking all the time. Of course, LA is an attacking team, and that is why it ended up being a very open and entertaining game. I think the balance in midfield is the answer.”
3. Going for the Win — Even in the early minutes of the match, when most visiting teams sit back and absorb the pressure, the Red Bulls came out and pressured the Galaxy. LA predictably countered with the majority of possession and chances after that. But in the second half with the score 1-1, New York settled down and began attacking again. Rather than go into a defensive shell, the Red Bulls went for the win.
“I was impressed how much they put into trying to get after it and win the game,” Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan said. “Most teams come here and try to defend for 90 minutes.”
The Red Bulls, to their credit, attacked early and tried to match LA blow-for-blow in the second half.
4. Ream’s Big Play — As the Galaxy built pressure near halftime, it looked certain that they had scored the goal that would give them a 2-1 lead. In the 43rd minute, a long ball from David Beckham from just inside the midfield line sent Donovan in alone on Bouna Coundoul. Donovan controlled with his thigh and blew past the Red Bulls goalkeeper, tapping in a shot towards an open goal that defender Tim Ream managed to somehow catch up to and clear off the line.
Replay seemed to show that the referee got it right and that Ream made the save.
“My take is it should have been a goal,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “Give Ream a lot of credit. He stayed in on that play.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer