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Drilling down on: at New York 2, Seattle 2

Seattle Sounders v New York Red Bulls

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 15: Joel Lindpere #20 of the New York Red Bulls battles for control of the ball against Andy Rose #25 of the Seattle Sounders at Red Bull Arena on July 15, 2012 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Man of the Match: Nobody responds to a benching the way Fredy Montero does. It’s happened through the Colombian striker’s Seattle years, most recently in May, when Montero came off the bench to hit two in a road win at Dallas. He played the last 30 minutes Sunday, beating New York goalkeeper Bill Gaudette almost immediately upon his entrance for the equalizer.

Packaged for take-away:

  • If you enjoy breaking down matches that turn on tactical vagaries, New York-Seattle was a gem. The Red Bulls, figuring out how best to use new man Sebastien Le Toux, adjusted the entire team shape and several roles in front of the back four. I’ll have more on that and how it all played out in a subsequent post.
  • New York’s attackers clearly had some issues figuring out the new arrangement. With Thierry Henry starting so deep in midfield, and with no one quite sure where Le Toux might begin and end his movements, there was a certain ponderous effect about it all. Or, maybe it was just the searing heat.
  • It all left Dax McCarty with much to do as the lone and somewhat isolated defensive screener. Once the home team adjusted about 20 minutes in, McCarty was his usual effective self, distributing with accuracy and clarity. And his 75th minute header off a corner nick needed heroic goal-line clearance from Seattle’s Adam Johansson.
  • Eddie Johnson, not known for his passing, split the Red Bulls defense with a couple of well-weighted, well-aimed balls in the first half. One put Brad Evans clean through to force a quality save from Red Bulls backup goalkeeper Gaudette.
  • Gaudette later made a quality save off a Johnson shot from inside the 18.
  • The defensive frailties of players in an unfamiliar system were all there to see on Seattle’s opener; it was a complete breakdown.

  1. -- Center back Markus Holgersson had no outlets as he worked a ball out of the back. So a hopeful ball launched toward Henry – sure, Henry wants balls in the air, where he’ll have to battle with the brutes of MLS – became easy pickings.
  2. -- Once they lost the ball, the Red Bulls were badly stretched out of shape. That’s a lesser considered problem with new formations and unfamiliar roles; players are way out of position when the ball is lost.
  3. -- So, Johansson had zero pressure as he lined up a cross from the right side.
  4. -- New York right back Brandon Barklage – remember, he’s not really a natural defender – completely lost Alvaro Fernandez, whose finish from close range was uncontested.

  • Rafa Marquez left after 20 minutes with a calf strain, replaced by Wilman Conde. But why the preference of Marquez over Conde, anyway? Conde is a better defender.
  • With all the offensive star power on the field, the afternoon’s best individual move came from … the unheralded Connor Lade. His little feint, turn and burst of speed near midfield left two Sounders midfielders badly beaten and well behind the play.
  • What a handball that the officials missed just before the break! Henry was lining up a sparkling delivery to the back post from Barklage. As Henry jumped to use his right foot – uh, wouldn’t a header have been lovely, Thierry? – Osvaldo Alonso went Oscar de la Hoya on that bad boy, swinging his right hand to knock the ball out of bounds. Replays weren’t 100 percent definitive, but it sure looked like the Seattle midfielder knocked ball away from danger with his hand.
  • Seattle’s Patrick Ianni had a strong match in central defense for the visitors, although he may have been one of two (along with Johansson) to keep Joel Lindpere onside on the Estonian’s 61st minute goal.
  • In a lot of ways, you wonder if Seattle’s slide in 2012 is just a lack of the big, game-changing save. Lindpere’s ball that sneaked inside the near post was a perfect example. Sounders ‘keeper Bryan Meredith wasn’t really at fault, necessarily. A save would have qualified as “something special” for sure, but it could potentially have been the difference between a nice point earned and a huge three points pickpocketed out of New York.
  • Seattle playmaker Mauro Rosales, having one of his quietest games, was removed in the 61st in favor of Montero.
  • As noted, Montero scored five minutes into his afternoon. It was his fifth goal this year, but just his first since May 19.
  • Sometimes, you really would relish seeing the Red Bulls make more effort to feed Henry, a.k.a., one of the best players in MLS; on the other hand, Henry sometimes tires and then “hides,” which and makes him difficult to locate him.
  • Considering the heat in New York, neither team had enough left to seriously press for a late winner. Everyone appeared to be laboring by the 80th minute.
  • Holgersson nailed an Henry corner kick, rattling off the cross bar at the end of the first half. Roy Miller connected with an Henry corner kick and sent it just wide on the last touch of the match.