This wasn’t a pretty game, ya’ll.
Neither team played particularly well in the first half, and I think the ball spent more time in the air in the first 20 minutes than it did on the ground. Neither team had much control in the midfield, and the passing was just not good. Rapids’ passing completion percentage was a dismal 58%, in many cases because a player either passed the ball too late or just turned it over.
There’s no doubt that the weather was a factor - it was super cold in New Jersey today. With a temperature of 26 degrees that felt like 16, it’s a completely different ball game than playing in 26 degrees in Colorado.
The Red Bulls brought the pressure early, and Tim Howard had three saves within the first 15 minutes. (Though one of those saves was recovering a shot from his own bad goal kick.) Unfortunately, the New York Red Bulls’ only goal came off Eric Miller’s foot in the 45th minute of the half. He got in front of Daniel Royer who was crashing in on the goal, and Royer would have tapped it in himself for sure. But it still sucks.
The referees continue missing calls, including a potential second yellow card for Sean Davis, a very obvious handball, and an obvious call in the box. Axel Sjoberg got pushed down on a corner kick, and even though that’s supposed to be a point of emphasis this year, he didn’t get the call.
There were a couple highlights in the first half, though: Caleb Calvert had a chance on a hustle play but Luis Robles got to it and Marlon Hairston brought the ball up and had a chance but touched it just a bit too far and Robles got to it again. Today was Robles’ 142nd consecutive appearance for the Red Bulls, an MLS record.
There were no subs by either team to start the second half. Dominique Badji had a nice opportunity within the first couple minutes, but his shot was blocked by a defender.
The high point of the second half for me was when Tim Howard pulled an Allen Iverson crossover and literally dribbled the ball around a New York player. It was a little close for comfort in general, but the end result was amazing.
In the 59th minute, Pablo Mastroeni made his first sub - Dillon Serna in for Caleb Calvert. I honestly expected Shkëlzen Gashi to come in first, but I’ll take it. Serna didn’t do much.
Our best chance game around the 70th minute when Badji had a breakaway, but he shot it right at Robles’ feet. Shortly after, Gashi subbed in for Dillon Powers, putting Serna in the 10 spot. Gashi didn’t do much today, either.
The second half was pretty much just more of the first, and the Rapids ended the game with a single shot on goal, compared to the Red Bulls’ seven. Axel Sjoberg did something to his knee in one of the last plays of the game and hobbled to the sideline. We’ll keep you updated if there is any news to share.
In my opinion, there are two major things that went wrong this game (besides the own goal, obvs):
- The Rapids’ passing was beyond terrible for most of the game. They had 58% passing accuracy in the first half, 59% overall. This led to turnover after turnover, no control in the midfield, and several missed offensive opportunities.
- Powers cannot and should not play the 10. I’m tired of talking about how badly we need a 10, and nothing about that is going to change until at the least the summer. But at this point, I’d really like to see what Gashi can do there. Powers doesn’t have the pace or vision to distribute the ball and create offensive opportunities.
But there was one big positive to take away from this game:
- Tim Howard is BACK. I was nervous that it was too early and too cold for him to come back in a game that was sure to keep him busy, but he killed it. He had three big saves against Bradley Wright-Phillips, the two-time MLS Golden Boot winner. BWP could have easily scored a goal (or two).
Let’s be honest, this was not a great game, but let’s also not get all doomsday. There’s still time for the Rapids to get it together, and it’s only the second game of the season (thank goodness that our next game is at home vs. Minnesota United). We could still start off the year with six points in three games, and that’s not bad.
But the Rapids do have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the top teams in the league this year.