Tom Barlow celebrates his late goal in the Red Bulls’ victory. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
When possible, I will try to have a perspective a day after Red Bulls and New York City FC games this season. This is my first story of the year.
By Michael Lewis
The Red Bulls got their MLS season off on the right foot Saturday, besting the San Jose Earthquakes on the road, 3-1.
That’s three points for a team that struggled on the road last season and three goals for a team that had to look under rocks for goals as well.
Saying that, the Earthquakes aren’t exactly the second coming of Manchester City or New York City FC, for that matter.
The Quakes (10-13-11, 41 points) finished in 10th place out of 13 teams in the Western Conference, seven points out of a playoff berth and aren’t favorited highly to reach the postseason this year.
The Red Bulls should face a greater challenge Saturday when they meet Toronto FC and its new head coach Bob Bradley.
Still, the win is three points and money in the bank.
Here are some thoughts about the game:
Long’s way back
Aaron Long, returning from his Achilles injury that he suffered last May, looked sharp, leading the backline and the team as captain. His positioning was solid and he made several key tackles to thwart San Jose.
That is very good news for club and country. If Long continues his fine play, he could be considered for a call-up by U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter for his squad’s three vital World Cup qualifiers next month.
As injuries mount for the USMNT (Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna), healthy bodies are always welcomed back.
Losing Long last year hurt the U.S. team and its depth at center back. A healthy Long will fortify the Americans’ defense, whether it is as a start or its depth.
Some statistics are for losers, some are for winners
The numbers that count the most are the ones on the scoreboard, as in the final score.
While other numbers will help tell the story of a match, they are not the top or bottom line.
The Quakes owned an incredible 69.2 percent possession advantage, which makes the Red Bull’s victory all that more remarkable. Yes, New York held the ball less than one-third of the time. San Jose also enjoyed a 80.9 percent passing accuracy while the Red Bulls were at 56.8 percent.
If the Red Bulls allow that to happen against superior sides, there is a good chance they will wind up on the short end of scores and chasing games.
Now, despite not controlling the ball, the Red Bulls placed seven shots on target, compared to San Jose’s two.
So, give the Red Bulls credit for creating and converting their chances. But they must improve their possession. Their midfield, however, needed more possession. They can’t live like this the rest of the season
Thank you, JT
With the score knotted up at 1-1 in the 72nd minute, JT Marcinkowski allowed Omir Fernandez’s shot to go through his legs for the decider. It was a soft goal, a gift from the host side.
It should have been a routine save. If it was made, the score would have remained tied. Without that go-ahead tally, the Red Bulls would not have been in a position to add an insurance goal by Tom Barlow.
What would have transpired the rest of the way? Would have the Red Bulls found a way to score a game-winner? Would have a less anxious San Jose side scored?
A first time for everything
One game certainly doesn’t make a season, but anyone forward scoring in the opening game of a season has to be good for one’s confidence.
Patryk Klimala, who underachieved last season (eight goals), gave the Red Bulls the lead with a late first-half goal. We’ll have to wait to see it that translates into upcoming games and the rest of the season.
If the Red Bulls have any serious playoff aspirations, they will need Klimala, or another player for that matter, to fill the net. He or someone else needs to score a minimum of 12-15 goals. You don’t need a Golden Boot winner to do well in MLS (although there is nothing wrong with that) but having a go-to guy can score the first goal or the odd one and take a team a long way.
A good debut
Lewis Morgan’s first game turned out fine. While he was forced to play at wing back and not his customary midfield position, Morgan made an impact on the Red Bulls’ opening goal, sending a right-wing pass to Klimala. Had he been able to play more forward, Morgan could have been more dangerous on attack.
And give Morgan a star for a vital block in front of the net.
An encouraging start.
The good hand man
Carlos Coronel is perhaps the most underrated goalkeeper in the league. He got votes from me in the 2021 season’s end-of-the-year ballot. Seeing Coronel’s heroics in the net made me appreciate him much more. He was solid in the net and the Quakes’ lone goal was not his fault.
I look forward to watching Coronel patrol the goal and make saves, routine and spectacular, over the next eight months or so.
The bottom line
The Red Bulls should enjoy the win and three away points, but they shouldn’t necessarily get carried away. There is a lot to improve on. Yes, the calvary is on the way with four players who missed the opener due to injuries or visa issues.
Andres Reyes and Wiki Carmona have foot injuries and Luquinhas and Tom Edwards don’t have their visas. They should help.
Still the Red Bulls have plenty to prove to many of their supporters and the rest of the league