While the Galaxy’s Mike Magee has suddenly garnered celebrity status in Los Angeles because of his goalkeeping exploits last Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium — and throughout MLS given his being named Player of the Week and winning Save of the Week — the Earthquakes have quietly, but purposefully, prepared for tomorrow’s big game against the New York Red Bulls at Stanford Stadium. After suffering as a bit of a laughing stock for fans across the country, and being subject to an angry outpouring from supporters here in the Bay Area, the team knows that the 30,000+ fans expected in attendance on Saturday want to see whether the Quakes have turned the page and should truly be considered a postseason-worthy team.
In an effort to get the conversation going on this weekend’s Earthquakes tilt with the Red Bulls, Quake, Rattle and Goal! reached out to fellow SBNation blog Once a Metro to talk about some of the big questions surrounding both sides. So without further ado, let’s learn more about the New York Red Bulls.
Quake, Rattle and Goal!: What is going on with the Red Bulls right now? They entered 2011 as a huge favorite to win the MLS Eastern Conference, but as the season nears the midway point they are struggling to earn points. Can the malaise be attributed to one factor, or is it a case of lots of little issues preventing New York from dominating the East?
Once a Metro: Lots of little issues — they give up too many goals from set pieces, the team always starts the second half like the USMNT starts games (flat, uninspired, and prone to conceding goals), the manager created an unnecessary goalkeeping "controversy," lingering injuries, losing five key players for the Gold Cup which happened to occur during a tough road trip that wraps up against the Earthquakes, the list goes on. They are still in a great position to have a strong second half of the season and finish atop the Eastern Conference, but with every tie the Supporters' Shield dream gets a little dimmer, but it's still far from out of reach with fifty-one additional points still on the table.
QRG: The trade of De Rosario is obviously big news in Harrison, but the kid coming in is no slouch either. How does the exchange of DeRo for McCarty change the formation for the Red Bulls, and which of his new teammates will benefit most from the style of play McCarty is able to bring to New York?
OAM: The Red Bulls have already announced a switch from a 4-4-2 diamond to a flat formation which at times may look like a 4-2-3-1 with Taino and McCarty playing the central, holding midfield roles regardless. This should help to shore up some defensive issues and really free Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere up on the wings as well as allow right back Jan Gunnar Solli and even left back Roy Miller get forward and join the attack. Then again, the real weakness for New York's defense is on set pieces, and it's not clear how much Dax McCarthy will help to improve that deficiency.
It's exciting to consider what McCarty can bring to the team. His box-to-box for ninety minutes style will be a good fit next to New York's main distributing central midfield Teemu Taino, and McCarty along with Joel Lindpere will drive opponents crazy closing down spaces quickly in the midfield and dominating possession.
The Red Bulls also seem to be moving toward bringing in some much needed defensive help with the $300,000 saved from trading De Rosario.
QRG: Goalkeeping continues to be the Achilles heel for the Red Bulls. Does Hans Backe have the 'keepers he needs to make a run at the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup this season, or is the coach looking for potential help in the summer transfer window?
OAM: Bouna Coundoul irked Hans Backe by going to play in a match for Senegal during the preseason, so after the Red Bulls gave up three goals to Chivas in mid-May, Backe had an excuse to bench him for favored son Greg Sutton. Neither are elite goalkeepers but Bouna deserves a lot of credit for making spectacular saves that kept New York ahead in a number of games last season. He also has three shutouts this season in eight appearances compared to just one for Sutton.
The Red Bulls should be a good enough field team that they don't need an all-star keeper, but not having a clear number one obviously isn't helping, so hopefully Backe can settle on someone for the rest of the season or make a trade and bring in a keeper during the summer transfer window. Bouna makes $100,000 more than Sutton - and if the club views them as equal on the field we might not get to see much more of "Bouna Time." There were rumors around USMNT backup Marcus Hahnemann being on the radar but I'm not convinced the Red Bulls are willing to take on that big of a salary hit for an aging keeper.