Red Bulls Trade for Dwayne De Rosario; He Sets Up Goal Two Minutes Into New York Debut

The New York Red Bulls dealt midfielders Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman to Toronto FC in exchange for five-time MLS Best XI selection Dwayne De Rosario this past Friday.

The move—which gives New York a potentially fearsome front five in former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, rising U.S. international Juan Agudelo, De Rosario, Jamaican speed demon Dane Richards and last year’s team MVP Joel Lindpere—paid immediate dividends on Saturday night against Houston.

After watching the scoreless first half from the bench, De Rosario came on for Mehdi Ballouchy at the start of the second half. The difference was so stark, you actually felt bad for Ballouchy. De Ro was a dynamic, skillful presence, and on one of his first touches he slipped a ball behind Houston’s backline that Richards ran onto, cut back and buried into the far side netting.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as New York keeper Bouna Coundoul misjudged a flick-on by Dynamo striker Will Bruin and was chipped by Cam Weaver to make it 1-1 just minutes after Richards’ goal.

That’s the way it ended, but not for lack of chances by the Red Bulls. They outshot Houston 24-9, and were stymied by several brilliant saves from Dynamo netminder Tally Hall, who twice stopped Henry from close range, and made three big saves in stoppage time.

Complete highlights here:

(Notice how the announcer calls substitute Cam Weaver—a striker, mind you—“the unlikeliest of sources” for a Houston goal. Ouch.)

We will miss the promising midfielder Tchani, but the acquisition of De Rosario is a huge win-now move. As New York GM Erik Soler told MLS Soccer: “We want to win the Supporters’ Shield, [and] the MLS Cup. We want to do that this year. I will be disappointed if we don’t.”

Despite the result on Saturday, the move looked like it would pay dividends, especially as the players get used to one another. It might even wake up Henry, who has sleepwalked through much of the young 2011 season.

For the rest of the Week 3 MLS action, check out our column over at the league website.

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Red Bulls Wrap Up Preseason with Chippy, Less-than-Impressive Draw Against Atlas

We are still awaiting the day when Marquez applies himself in a Red Bull game.

Preseason games can be notoriously misleading, and an isolated preseason game is a limited sample size, for sure, but, man, based on last night’s performance in Glendale, Arizona, the 2011 Red Bulls look a lot like the 2010 Red Bulls—only not as good.

They were missing two projected starters in Juan Agudelo (groin) and Jan Gunnar Solli (undisclosed “minor” injury), but they looked far more than two pieces away from being a contending team. There was no rhythm whatsoever to their play, they struggled to connect passes, and they were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 tie against Atlas, which is currently 4-4-1 after nine games in the Mexican Primera Division.

In short, they looked like what they were last season—a work in progress, a team yet to cohere.

A positive echo of last season was the one player who made something happen—Joel Lindpere, who drew an 88th-minute penalty that enabled New York to tie it up. Sure, he embellished it a little, but he got himself in a good attacking position, made a move, felt contact and went down. Boom: penalty; tie game.

But there was very little else to praise. Thierry Henry vacillated between frustration with his teammates for their inability to read his intentions (we’re looking at you, Dane Richards) and wild-eyed outrage at some rash tackles from the opposition (late in the game, he retaliated for one in a fashion that would have earned him a straight red in 99.9% of the leagues around the world. He got a yellow.).

He had isolated moments of gliding-on-air effectiveness, but overall, Henry did not look like a player ready to dominate MLS competition. Which, you know, was sort of the idea when RBNY brought him over last season.

Rafael Marquez was even worse. He was beaten badly on a ball over the top in the first half, and if not for some excellent cover from American Carlos Mendes, New York would have surrendered a goal on the play. Later, Marquez sent an awkward backpass to Bouna Coundoul that forced the keeper into an even more awkward emergency clearance.

The Mexican international also seemed to mentally float in and out of the game—a trait we saw in his RBNY appearances last season.

Partnering Henry up top was the 6-4 Ghanian Salou Ibrahim—a player that coach Backe spent the preseason going out of his way to say is not in his plans. Now here’s a start, Salou—go get ’em. He was predictably feckless and missed a clear chance in the first half, sending a lob over the bar with the keeper beaten.

New signing Teemu Tainio did not look like the answer in the middle of the park, and slightly ahead of him in midfield, Mehdi Ballouchy made us think Backe and Co. fell in love with the Morrocan prematurely last summer, and made a rash decision when they acquired him from Colorado (which went on to win the league without him, btw).

Ballouchy brings sporadic flashes of skill to the table—and nothing else.

Speaking of one-dimensionality, Dane Richards didn’t even have his primary (solitary?) asset—speed—going last night. Atlas defenders seemed prepared for that element and did an effective job neutralizing the Jamaican winger—when he wasn’t neutralizing himself with unforced errors and passes to no one.

On the positive side, Tim Ream was his usual composed and consistent self at centerback (despite scoring an own goal when a driven cross wrong-footed him), and Mendes, as we suggested earlier, looked pretty good—especially so since he had played 90 minutes against Dallas the day before.

Beyond that, though, if Red Bulls fans want to maintain their optimism for the 2011 season, they’ll have to set this one aside and fuhgettaboudid, as they say in New York.

Red Bulls Swap Kandji for Colorado’s Ballouchy

Colorado midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy hit the post early in the second half of the Rapids-Red Bulls game this past Saturday, and was otherwise a pretty lively presence in midfield for his team.

It didn’t go unnoticed by Red Bulls brass.

Today, in a relatively rare player-for-player trade, New York announced it had sent midfielder-striker Macoumba Kandji to Colorado in exchange for Ballouchy.

It’s an interesting transaction, and has the potential to benefit both sides. But it does raise a few questions:

Kandji is most comfortable at striker; New York had no room for him there, and he never adapted to a wide midfield role. With U.S. international Conor Casey and the red-hot Omar Cummings starting up top in Colorado, Kandji may not be a starter there, either. Will he be happy as the Rapids’ third striker?

Where, and how much, will Ballouchy play for New York?

Does his arrival mean Tony Tchani, who only recently carved out a starting spot in central midfield, heads back to the bench?

How will this affect the role of Rafa Marquez, who had assumed the playmaker’s role in midfield for New York?

Will there be a new formation in New York?

We’ll start to get some answers on Thursday night in Dallas.

Related: During pregame warmups for the Colorado-New York game on Saturday, Kandji came over to the stands and signed autographs for a few kids (including a son of Backpost).

Roy Miller and a few other Red Bulls declined the kids’ pleas to come over, choosing to stay focused on their pregame prep.

Maybe Kandji knew he was on his way out, and wanted to create a few mementoes.

He signed the game-day program—which featured his image on the cover.