We have, now, officially, after several seasons of watching his high-speed, low-skill antics, reached the point at which Red Bull winger Dane Richards can be called … a good player.
A damn good one: He has five goals in his last seven games, and has been the primary spark-provider in New York’s conference-championship stretch run.
When he sat out last week’s Philadelphia game, the Red Bull attack was noticeably listless (that was partly due to their 4-5-1 first-half formation, but they definitely missed The Dane).
Back in the lineup in front of a decent Thursday-night crowd at Red Bull Arena yesterday, Richards opened the scoring 17 minutes in, taking an excellent pass from Juan Pablo Angel, streaking to the top of the box, and rifling a shot over New England keeper Bobby Shuttleworth (no relation to Jesus).
Joel Lindpere salted away the win with a nice cutback and goal (and New England’s Chris Tierney clearly kept him onside, double-check the replay below) in stoppage time.
The victory clinched playoff homefield advantage for the Red Bulls, and it also tied their own MLS record for best single-year improvement (10 wins), set in 2000.
Lindpere’s capper could not have been more appropriate: He scored the first regular-season goal at Red Bull Arena on March 27, and last night, he bagged the last. In between, he was the most consistent performer for the team, hands-down.
Also of note, before we get to the highlights—Juan Pablo Angel looked good, holding the ball up well, and sending out several other nice passes in addition to the one that set up Richards. After the game, New England midfielder Shalrie Joseph (who outplayed Rafa Marquez, btw), responded to the recent talk that Angel will not be back next season, telling Goal.com:
“I think it would be really stupid to let Angel go. In my eyes, he is definitely one of the top three scorers in this league. He does so much for that team. For him not to re-sign would be a sad loss, but if he leaves, hopefully our team and organization can make a bid for him.”
We tend to agree—and Angel has certainly been much healthier than Thierry Henry this season.