ONCE UPON A TIME RED BULLS PUSH TEAM U.S.A. FORWARD

The United States inched closer to World Cup qualification with a 1-0 win over Honduras Tuesday night, with three players standing out in the victory. Jozy Altidore scored his fourth goal in four games for the national team, Michael Bradley controlled the midfield with his will and grit and Tim Howard kept a second straight clean sheet, as the US looks poised to be in the world’s biggest tournament next year in Brazil.

Altidore, Bradley and Howard are three of the main cogs for the US Men’s National Team. All three players cut their teeth in Major League Soccer before making the jump abroad, developing into key players for both club and country. All three were born and raised in the state of New Jersey. And they all made their names with the Red Bulls/MetroStars franchise.

Tim Howard

Of the three players mentioned, Tim Howard might have had the hardest road to national team stardom, beginning his career in the humblest of places.

The North Brunswick native actually started his professional career in 1997 with the now-defunct North Jersey Imperials of the USL. After just six appearances, the now 34-year-old was signed by New York after being watched by then-goalkeeping coach Tim Mulqueen. He would work his way into starting lineup and became the unquestioned starting goalie in 2001. He led the Metros to a playoff berth that season and won MLS goalkeeper of the year honors, the youngest goalie to win the award at the time.

His performances with the MetroStars put him on the radar of one of the biggest clubs in the world – Manchester United. In 2003, the imposing 6-foot-3 keeper was bought by the Red Devils for $4 million and took the first-choice goalkeeper spot as his own. He won the Community Shield in 2003 and became the second American to ever win an FA Cup winner’s medal in 2004, helping United to beat a Tim Cahill-led Millwall side in the final.

Howard had to endure a rough two seasons with Man U and was relegated to the bench before a move to Everton in 2006 revitalized his career. He has been a consistent performer with the Blues – the 34-year-old recently recorded his 100th clean sheet with Everton this past season – and will be the United States’ starting goalie in the 2014 World Cup should it qualify.

A solid performer, Howard is built like a colossus and has adapted to the rough-and-tumble world of Premier League soccer. While all goalies make mistakes, Howard has shown mental toughness to ignore his gaffes and persevered, becoming one of the Premier League’s best shot stoppers.

Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley may have the spent the least amount of time with the Red Bulls/Metro Stars franchise, but on the national team, the Princeton, New Jersey-born central midfielder might have the biggest impact.

The son of former men’s national team and Metro Stars coach Bob Bradley, Michael played just one season in New York, making 30 appearances in the 2004-05 season. He became the youngest MLS player to be sold to a foreign league in 2006, making the move to SC Heerenveen, a Dutch club. After stints in Germany, England and Italy, the 25-year-old has found a home in the Eternal City with popular club AS Roma.

Bradley combines the technical prowess of the European game with the hard-working ethic and rugged athleticism that his American upbringing has provided him. Bradley is an old fashioned “box-to-box” midfielder, proficient in both attacking and defensive areas of the pitch. He is a tough tackler, has the ability to play killer passes and can get forward and join in the attack. During the 2012-13 season, Bradley even supplanted Roma legend Daniele De Rossi as one of the starting central midfielders for the Giallorossi.

Still young enough to improve on his game, Bradley could go down as one of the best Americans to ever play soccer if he continues his development.

Jozy Altidore

The scouting report on Jozy Altidore has been one of a player who had yet reached his potential – that is, until this season.

The Livingston, New Jersey made his professional at the age of 16 with the Red Bulls in 2006 and has always had the physical tools to succeed. A big, battering ram of a striker, Altidore tallied nine goals in 2007 with the Red Bulls before earning a big-money transfer to Spanish outfit Villarreal in 2008.

But the forward never did find his form in Spain and had trouble scoring when given the chance to play. Loan moves to Turkey and England didn’t do the 21-year-old much good and it was looking like Altidore’s career was going to stagnate. US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had his doubts about Altidore’s future national team hopes and even dropped him from the starting lineup.

Turns out all he needed to do was move to Holland. Altidore signed with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar in 2011 and his career has shot skyward. He scored 20 goals in his first season and broke through with 31 this past year, leading AZ to a Dutch Cup win, the first Cup victory in 31 years.

For Altidore, Bradley and Howard, the foundations for their success were all laid with the Red Bulls franchise. While the club has not enjoyed team success, the individual success of the young American talent is something to be proud of and not to be overlooked

Up Next for the Red Bulls

After being eliminated from the US Open Cup by the Revolution last week, New York is back in action Sunday against the Philadelphia Union. The Red Bulls return to MSG Thursday, July 4 against the Colorado Rapids.

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NEW YORK SEES RED AFTER LOSS TO VANCOUVER

One word can describe the Red Bulls’ mood after their loss to the Whitecaps at Red Bull Arena Saturday night: Anger.

Anger at letting numerous chances in the first half go by the wayside. Anger at letting Vancouver come back to win after thoroughly dominating long stretches of the match. And anger in allowing their seven-match unbeaten run to come to an end.

Despite owning the possession statistics – over 65 percent for the duration of the match – and creating a majority of the better scoring chances, New York was unable to extend its unbeaten streak to a franchise-high eight matches after letting a second-half lead slip away and losing a 2-1 decision to the Whitecaps. The team heads into its three-week midseason frustrated.

“I’m shocked, I can’t believe it,” Red Bulls midfielder Juninho said through a translator after the match. “I can’t believe we lost that game. We completely dominated the first half; we managed to go up 1-0 early in the second half and, in a matter of 3-4 minutes, we lost the game. It’s frustrating to lose games this way.”

After seizing a 1-0 lead on Greg Klazura’s goal in the 51st minute, the Red Bulls let what seemed to be a certain three points get away. Vancouver would find a way to get back on level terms after calamitous defending in the Red Bulls’ penalty box, as Eric Alexander‘s attempted clearing header fell into the path of the Whitecaps’ Jordan Harvey, who smashed a left-footed volley pastLuis Robles to square the match at 1-1. It would only get worse for the Red Bulls after Jamison Olave got sent off for a second yellow card in the 75th minute because of a rash foul on Whitecaps striker Kenny Miller. Miller would deliver the final crushing blow, scoring the game-winning headed goal in the 83rd minute.

“I thought we controlled the game completely until the red card,” head coach Mike Petke told MSG’s Tina Cervasio in his postgame interview. “It’s a terrible feeling right now. [Saturday], it just wasn’t our night.”

Thierry Henry gave a frank assessment of his team’s performance, saying the Red Bulls didn’t even deserve to win the match even if it stayed 11 vs. 11. The captain believed the effort wasn’t good enough and the team needs to step it up when they come back from their break.

“We got to work hard and play way better than that to win a game,” Henry said. “Vancouver deserved to win full stop … give them credit, they played well, they had a plan, they stuck to their plan and they scored when they needed to score.”

Defense Rests

It looked as if the Red Bulls had nothing to fear from, what seemed to be, an anemic Whitecaps attack in the first half. Robles had little to do in goal and the center-back combination of Olave and Markus Holgersson had Miller totally contained.

But Alexander’s gaffe cost the Red Bulls on the equalizer and Kosuke Komura failed to pick up Miller’s run into the box. The Japanese defender was caught looking at the ball and the Red Bulls were handed their first loss since April 17 because of it. His coach – and former defender – was not impressed with the effort.

“As a former defender myself, I know you never stare at the ball,” Petke said in his post-match press conference. “The right play is to know where the player is behind you, and to use your body, put your body in front of the player and the ball, so there’s no way for him to get it [unless he] fouls you.”

For the man that had the best view of both goals – Red Bulls goalie Robles – there was a lack of cohesion defensively that caused the problems and allowed Vancouver to take advantage.

“I know that there was confusion on the first [goal],” he said. “The other [goal] was because Kenny Miller is a proven goal scorer. Still, both of them were horrible. It’s kind of a bitter taste going into the break … [Saturday] wasn’t good enough.”

UP NEXT

The Red Bulls next game is not until June 12 – a US Open Cup clash against the New England Revolution at Harvard University – and their next league match isn’t until June 23 in Philadelphia against the Union.

 

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