Against all odds, Thierry Henry in his homecoming and the New York Red Bulls won the 2011 Emirates Cup, tieing Host and cup favorites Arsenal this past weekend and defeating French side Paris-St. Germain 1-0.
Many will badger New York and say they still haven’t won any major trophies and that they disgraced the Open Cup while crossing the Atlantic to take part of a meaningless tournament mid-season. Red Bull might have treated the Open Cup with disrespect and participated in a tournament like the Emirates Cup during a busy MLS season, but a trophy win is a trophy win. New York needs to capitalize on this win and take all the positives and morale boosters it can take back to MLS.
New York was able to score through Joel Lindpere after some great build up and hold out Paris-St. Germain for a hard fought 1-0 victory on Saturday. On Sunday they bunkered in and held off an entire Arsenal who gave it all they had at a nervous but solid back line of the New York Red Bulls.
Hans Backe went with a very defensive line-up, resting Joel Lindpere for the Arsenal game and playing not only Dax and Teemu but also Rafa Marquez in deep midfield, leaving the tandem of Mendes and Ream intact. It was a 4-1-4-1 lineup. New York still wasn’t able to create much offensively with Thierry Henry being the lone target up front in front of Arsenal’s defense, but they were defensively effective. If Red Bull threatened it was only through Henry.
The Red Bulls didn’t play attractive football, and offensively or coming out of the back were actually pretty horrible. Call it jitters or nerves, but the Red Bulls couldn’t muster anything forward against Arsenal for most of the game. The British commentators even went so far as calling the Red Bulls “not a very good team.” But that didn’t matter as Clever Hans deployed a bunkered in type of game where Red Bulls were in full defensive mode hoping to counter attack.
Things got better once Juan Agudelo entered the game for Teemu Tainio, as it gave the Red Bulls a different offensive perspective, creating some definite chances. It finally paid off as the Red Bulls were able to equate the match 1-1 after a first-half Van Persie header. In the 84th minute, Henry fed a beautiful pass to Miller who crossed it into the goal’s mouth and inadvertently tucked in by an Arsenal defender. The tie gave the Red Bulls their first trophy of the season and, hopefully, not their last.
The positives that the Red Bulls must take from this game are first, they were able to hold off Arsenal of all teams on the road. It was almost surreal to have watched EPL games at the Emirates all the time, but only this time seeing our Red Bulls being a part of it. After an abysmal performance from MLS squads against top flight European teams, including the 4-0 Manchester thrashing of the All-stars, it was nice to redeem some respect for MLS in winning this trophy.
Defensively, Red Bulls were near perfect, allowing only one goal the entire tournament. For a team that has been letting in goals left and right, this must be a great boost for the defense’s morale entering the second half of the season. Even though Rafa Marquez was a little rusty in the midfield, his presence, along with Dax and Teemu in front of Ream and Mendes really paid off. Offensively there was little to rave about, but seeing as this was Arsenal, one can only think things would be easier against other MLS sides. Red Bulls can probably do without Dax or Teemu and insert another forward up top, preferably Luke Rodgers (once healthy) where NY can play a 4-1-3-1-1 with Henry playing up top behind the Englishmen.
So yes, it was a meaningless trophy, yes the players are probably fatigued from the transatlantic flight, and it seemed this was given more focus than the Open Cup, but in the end it is a trophy win.
This definitely beats out getting hammered or coming home empty-handed after such a long trip. Hopefully this energizes the team and lets them know they can compete with some of the best in the world. Maybe it will grant the Red Bulls a fleeting taste of a championship. Maybe it will make them want to taste it again in a few months once the playoffs begin.
Their Reál test comes this Saturday when they face Salt Lake who recently dropped a 2-0 decision at home to a surging Columbus Crew. Real Salt Lake should be no problem even if on the road, after all the Red Bulls did hold off Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
Real Salt Lake lost their second straight 2-0 game to Sporting Kansas City last night. RSL was on the road at Livestrong Park where Sporting is undefeated. Real Salt Lake is really hurting without Jamison Olave who went down in the All-Star game against Manchester United. RBNY can really take this opportunity to kick RSL while they’re down. Though it seems very unlikely that RSL drops three in a row. Fresh off an Emirates Cup trophy win though, NY has the confidence to defeat this vulnerable RSL side come this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Hans Backe mentioned they might try to see if Rodgers can give it a try. If Rodgers is not able to go, he might be out for the rest of the seaon as surgery would definitely sideline him for good.