Bradley Wright-Phillips (left) might be better off as the lone striker. (Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
Some thoughts about Week Two in Major League Soccer, most about New York’s two favorite teams:
A lot has been made and said about the Red Bulls’ opening two games being decided by own goals. Is it luck or is it skill?
Well, it’s a little of both, although I remember well-quoted saying
Luck is the residue of design.
Translated: you can make your own luck by working hard and being good.
The Red Bulls fit that description in their first two games as they found themselves as the only team with a 2-0-0 mark and six points in the Eastern Conference.
Translated: it doesn’t matter how the ball goes into the net. A goal is a goal and a win is a win and three points.
Heck, yours truly remembers a time when the team was haunted by own goals in its very first two games as a franchise.
Let’s take a ride in the Soccer Wayback Machine to take us to 1996, when the Red Bulls’ forerunners, the MetroStars lost their first two games thanks to shots that went in off off center back Nicola Caricola. Yes, that Nicola Caricola.
The first came on April 13, when defender Arash Noamouz dribbled past midfield and fired a 25-yard shot that deflected off the foot of Caricola and past goalkeeper Tony Meola, who had dived the other way.
Mr. Caricola is much better known for the own goal he scored with 15 seconds remaining in the home opener at Giants Stadium, which gave the New England Revolution a 1-0 win and created the Curse of Nicola Caricola that the team’s most ardent fans still believe to this day.
With two winning own goals, perhaps this is an omen that things will finally work out well for the Red Bulls — ie. an appearance in MLS Cup.
Is one striker better than two?
So far, so mediocre for the Red Bulls’ two-striker system. Not counting the two own goals, New York has found the net but once in its two MLS matches. If you factor in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series, the Red Bulls have scored two goals in four games.
Bradley Wright-Phillips just might work better alone up top than have a partner. It has worked really well en route to a pair of Golden Boot trophies — 27 goals in 2014 and 24 more last year.
And I’m not certain having Sacha Kljestan on the left of midfield is the correct answer as well. I still think he is more effective running the show in the middle.
We’ll see if the Red Bulls can right their ways against the Seattle Sounders Sunday.
Staying with the plan
On the other side of the Hudson, New York City FC ran roughshod over D.C. United, 4-0, scoring three times in the first half using the same game plan as in its 1-0 season-opening defeat at Orlando City SC the week prior.
The game plan included ball possession and of course, taking decent chances. The Blues peppered the Orlando goal with shots, but goalkeeper Joe Bendik — a Huntington, N.Y. native who had his contract extended three years past 2017 — had some other ideas and stood on his head.
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was not as fortunate as the midfield and backline in front of him made more than enough mistakes to give City the ball in dangerous situations and convert opportunities into goal-scoring celebrations.
No need to change anything anytime soon, even with the Montreal Impact coming to town on Saturday.
The legend of David Villa
A great club player with Barcelona.
A World Cup champion with Spain.
Wearing No. 7 while playing at Yankee Stadium — and living up to the history and expectations of the number wore by the late, great Mickey Mantle.
Twenty-three goals, second in the league, as a 34-year-old.
The 2016 MLS MVP winner.
Two goals and an assist in Sunday’s romp.
The undisputed leader and heart and soul of the team.
Have I forgotten anything?
Oh yeah, he learned English to speak to the media and has improved greatly since last season.
I think that tells the tale of David Villa, a class act who has become the gold standard of Designated Players. He just needs an MLS Cup championship to add to his collection of media.
United, they are failling and failing
I try to use the words train wreck only on special occasions, but I believe using that term to describe Minnesota United’s start of its MLS journey fits perfectly.
I mean, the Loons have been outscored 11-2 in their opening two matches, the most embarrassing start for any First Division soccer franchise in the United States.
The 5-1 thumping by the Portland Timbers was bad enough, but a 6-1 demolition by another expansion side, Atlanta United? That is tough to take.
When NYC FC took on Orlando City SC in its MLS franchise opener in 2015, the teams battled to a 1-1 draw. Fair enough for first-year sides.
Minnesota must remember its not performing in the North American Soccer League, but with the big boys in MLS.
Let’s see if head coach Adrian Heath, who brought these players to the club, can stop the profuse bleeding in time for the Colorado Rapids, who will host United Saturday.
And if he can’t right the ship, Heath will be the first coach sacked this season. That certainly would make a great trivia question: Which coach was given the pink slip by two relatively young expansion teams in back-to-back seasons?