Red Bulls Lose Match, Draw Postgame Donnybrook

The Red Bulls gave up a 15th-minute goal to former New York attacker Mike Magee, and despite a furious effort, could not find an equalizer over the remaining 75 minutes, falling 1-0 to Los Angeles in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal series at Red Bull Arena yesterday afternoon.

The Galaxy backline, ably anchored by keeper Josh Saunders—who made five saves, three of them outstanding ones—bent but did not break and succeeded in frustrating New York.

Most frustrated of all was midfielder Rafa Marquez, who had a point blank volley stuffed by Saunders in stoppage time, and then boiled over after the final whistle. The Mexico captain fired the game ball at Landon Donovan as the LA midfielder walked near midfield, sparking a full-blown fracas near the halfway line.

Marquez and Galaxy midfielder Juninho were red-carded for their roles in the dustup, and will miss the second leg on Thursday. We’d say that’s a push in terms of personnel losses for the two sides.

Here’s the incident:

(We enjoyed Harkes‘s “maybe a fly went into his eye” comment.)

And here are the very entertaining match highlights:

The return leg should be something to see, that much you can be sure of. It’s on Thursday at 11:00 pm ET on ESPN2.

We put on our MLS press fedora and went into the Galaxy locker room after the game to get some quotes on both the melee and the performance of LA keeper  Saunders.

Donovan told us some very interesting things. Go check them out here, and see here for the Galaxy’s take on Saunders’ game-saving turn between the pipes.

The New York–LA clash led a pretty spectacular weekend of MLS playoff action, including more feistiness in Philly, a shocker in Salt Lake, and a freakish plague of injuries in Colorado. Catch up on all of that right here.

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Red Bulls 2, FC Dallas 0: Galaxy’s Reward for Winning Supporters’ Shield? Facing the Team with the Highest Payroll in the League

It wasn’t always pretty—especially in the first 30 minutes or so, when their backline was under almost constant pressure—but the New York Red Bulls scraped out a 2-0 win over Dallas at Pizza Hut Park last night to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs.

New York will now take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in a two-game, total-goals series that begins on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena (3:00 ET, ESPN2).

The Galaxy might prefer a different opponent as a reward for racking up the league’s best regular-season record (19-5-10), but the well-paid, high-profile Red Bulls played with a season-long inconsistency that boxed them into the 10th and final seed in the postseason. So here they are, looming as a dangerous first matchup for the Supporters’ Shield winners.

Then again, they may not be as dangerous as they were heading into last night. New York lost right back Jan Gunnar Solli, a key component of their defense and their offense (he regularly gets forward and swings in dangerous crosses), to a red card, and they may have lost right midfielder Dax McCarty to an ankle injury. The status of striker Luke Rodgers, who missed last night’s game with knee swelling, is also in doubt.

But the Red Bulls got the result they needed last night, and once again they had Joel Lindpere to thank for the critical goal that sent them on their way. Lindpere has been the most consistent and most clutch player on the team during the past two seasons. In the 61st minute last night, he ghosted in between Dallas defenders George John and Ugo Ihemelu in the box, and slipped Mehdi Ballouchy’s cross past Kevin Hartman for a 1-0 New York lead.

After Solli’s red in the 79th, the 10-man Red Bulls bunkered in to protect their lead, then iced the game deep into stoppage time, when Henry got behind the pushed-up FCD backline and eventually finished off a breakaway.

Highlights:

This Week in Gnarly: adidas Unveils a “Boot With A Brain”

This news actually broke a few weeks ago, but it’s worth catching up with: adidas has made a Beamon-esque leap forward in soccer technology with the miCoach SPEED_CELL (first tweak, btw, should be the name), a chip that fits in the sole of the company’s new adizero F-50 boot and can track the wearer’s 360-degree movement, capturing metrics such as speed, average speed (recorded every second), maximum speed (recorded every five seconds), the number of sprints, distance, distance at high intensity levels, steps, and step length.

Seven hours’ worth of these kinds of data can be stored in the device’s memory, and then transmitted wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac, where it can be organized visually (pie charts, bar graphs, etc.) for easy apprehension.

That is pretty badass, and there’s more: adidas will soon introduce a series of apps connected to the SPEED_CELL, including miCoach Soccer, which will allow players to apply their real-world performance stats to their own avatar in a soccer videogame.

For more on this, see here and here.

Can the Red Bulls Recreate 2008?

There’s been an acute outbreak of Playoff Fever at the BP HQ. The 2011 MLS postseason kicks off tonight in Frisco, Texas, with a match between FC Dallas and our beloved, beleaguered New York Red Bulls (9:00 ET, Fox Soccer).

We profiled Dallas’s excellent coach Schellas Hyndman for the league site yesterday; please give it a read. Chances are he’ll have his side ready to go tonight, even if they stumbled a bit down the stretch as the games and the injuries piled up. Between the CONCACAF Champions League, the US Open Cup, and the MLS season, Dallas has played 47 games this season. Last year, they played 34, “MLS Cup final included,” Hyndman told us.

The Hoops rested just about every starter (including wingers Marvin Chavez and Brek Shea, Hernandez, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, defender Zach Loyd and midfielders Daniel Cruz and Ricardo Villar) in the season finale against San Jose this past Saturday, so the core of the team should have their legs back for tonight.

The Red Bulls will have everyone available except striker Luke Rodgers, the pugnacious Englishman who has been surprisingly important to the team this year. In a stat that coach Hans Backe called “frightening,” New York is 9-4-7 with 32 goals scored when Rodgers starts, and 1-4-9 with 18 goals scored when he’s not in the lineup. He won’t be in the lineup tonight as he has knee swelling and didn’t even make the trip to Texas.

So what can we expect from New York tonight? Let’s take stock:

After a bright start to the season, the Red Bulls struggled for most of the summer, racking up a record 16 ties and generally laboring to stay above .500. There were epic collapses at big moments, an embarrassing locker room controversy, an equally embarrassing goalkeeping crisis, misbehavior from a superstar, and a sophomore slump from their promising young centerback.

Yet they bounced back somewhat down the stretch, piecing together enough wins and clutch performances to edge into the playoffs.

And now … well, it’s a brand new season. They certainly have the talent to beat any team in the league, and are capable of making a run. Considering the players they have, it wouldn’t be as surprising as their 2008 playoff odyssey, when New York went 10-11-9 during the season, squeaked into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed, then knocked off Houston and Real Salt Lake to reach the championship game.

They ended up losing that game, 3-1 to Columbus, but the team had a pronounced just-happy-to-be-here attitude back then. If this group somehow gets to the final, you can bet they’ll smell blood in the water.

Of course, they have a long way to go to get there—longer than in 2008, when there were only eight teams in the playoffs.

This year, if they get by Dallas, New York will meet Los Angeles in a home-and-home total-goals series (second game at LA). If they get past that stage, it would be on to the conference final, a do-or-die single game, at either Seattle or Real Salt Lake.

A victory there would put them in the MLS Cup against either Colorado or a team from the East. It would also mean they had earned their berth in the final, having defeated three of the top four teams in the league, all on the road.

But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. It starts tonight, on the road at FCD. If New York is going to get by the first round, they’ll have to be sound defensively, and look to their big guns to snatch a goal or two.

As for the defensive part of the equation, the backline will know when they’ve slipped up, because keeper Frank Rost will revert to his native German. As Tim Ream told The Wall Street Journal, “That’s like your mom calling you by your first, middle and last name all at once. If he slips into German, everybody’s a little on edge.”

Here’s hoping Rost sticks to English all game long, and that striker Juan Agudelo gets a run—you know the 18 year old will be fired up to make a mark if given the chance in a big game like this.

BPFL: Trouble At the Top

Hello there. We’re back. We were snowed under with day-job duties and some extra MLS stuff (see their site tomorrow—and Friday), so the sleek consoles at the Backpost World HQ went unmanned for a bit. We’ll be back behind them tomorrow.

Until then, here is BPFL Co-commissioner MGlo with the exquisitely frustrating (to him; humorous to the rest of us) tale of his fall from the top of the table. He also covers the best, worst, and unluckiest performers of the week.

We can relate to the commish’s plight to a large degree, particularly where Leon Best and Luis Suarez are concerned. We also picked the wrong week to drop Edin Dzeko from our lineup. Sigh.

Take it away, MGlo:

And then there were NONE!

OK, well, not none exactly, but there are no longer any unbeaten and untied teams in our league as Old27m and Ahmad Haziq Hashim both lost by a single solitary solo point to their opponents Kimo’s and Giorgio Chinaglia, respectively. Those two have dropped into second place and a new leader has taken over.

It pains me to say it, but coloradokeeper is that new leader: His 45-30 victory over Escobar’s Revenge sent him top of the table.

At the bottom it is looking more and more like relegation for both RayDomPsychicAdvisor and YourAdHere, who are both winless in eight matches. (I would think the former might have seen this coming.)

As for me, frustration reigned on Long Island, as I couldn’t find the point needed to extend my unbeaten run to eight games and remain at the top of the Backpost League. I had decided against making a transfer but struggled with that decision most of Friday, logging in and out of the site and bringing players in and out of my team.

Checking my opponent’s squad, I felt that I would be okay with the current group of players, and really it was just bad luck that I didn’t at least draw my match. I believe that Luis Suarez played well enough to earn at least 1 Bonus Point which would have turned into 2—and victory for me—as he was my captain. Needless to say, he got none.

But there were other factors going against me. How about Leon Best only getting to halftime before being substituted? There’s a lost point. Or Best getting booked? Another point gone. But the most frustrating turn of all was due to a rule on the site. Wolves’ comeback against Swansea killed me.

Swansea’s Scott Sinclair was playing for me, and his teammate Nathan Dyer was in for my opponent. Dyer came out in the 82nd minute, and two minutes later, Wolves scored. According to the rules, “If a player has been substituted when a goal is conceded this will not effect[sic] any clean sheet bonus.” Well there’s a fine how do you do. Sinclair finishes with 2 and Dyer cravenly leaves early with 3.

As OMATV said, I was in Dyer Straits.

Performance of the Week: This week’s winner is Serbian Zbornaja, who scored a whopping 71 points—20 more than the next highest-scoring team. He was led by captain Gervinho’s 30 points and David Silva’s 12, along with clean sheets from two Newcastle players, a goal from Sergio Aguero, and an assist from Joleon Lescott.

Unlucky Loser: EPLQuakes earned 43 points this week, which would have beaten 34 other teams and drawn with one. Unfortunately for him, he was up against Team Fortress 4, who pulled in 51 points. (EPL Quakes’ weekend was further tarnished when Chris Wondolowski, of his beloved Stateside brethren, missed winning the MLS Golden Boot by a crossbar and two terrific saves from Dallas’s Chris Seitz.—Ed.)

As always, any comments or questions can be addressed to Jbackpost12@gmail.com with ‘BPFL’ in the subject line.

Thanks MGlo. Check this space tomorrow, everyone. Good night.

Galaxy Makes It Three MLS Sides In CCL Quarterfinals

Much like the Red Bulls, who did the business versus Philadelphia without their leading scorer and best player, Thierry Henry, the Los Angeles Galaxy traveled down to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, last night without Robbie Keane and with an only partially fit Landon Donovan, and knocked off CD Motagua 1-0 to book a place in next spring’s CONCACAF quarterfinals.

They join Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC in the round of eight, along with Mexican sides Morelia, Santos Laguna, Pumas, and Monterrey (the defending champs). Isidro Metapan completes the field as the first team from El Salvador ever to reach the CCL quarters.

David Beckham did make the trip for LA and he started—drawing sustained cheers from the Honduran crowd—and went the full 90. Juninho scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute, his shot from 35 yards dipping just under the crossbar and in.

Donovan came on for the final 22 minutes and nearly made it 2-0 in the waning moments, cutting back nicely at the top of the box and firing just over the bar.

Highlights here:

The Galaxy started seven Americans in the match, and ended up playing nine Yanks with the second-half additions of Donovan and Michael Stephens.

Also, we’re not sure what band does the soundtracks for these CCL highlight clips, but we want them for our next mixer. They are gnarly.