It looked promising for the Red Bulls after their first-half performance last Thursday against the Rapids.
New York played Colorado evenly after the first 45 minutes, creating offensive movement, and was on course to at least get a point from their midweek match.
But things began to unravel quickly in the second half.
An early Rapids goal from Nathan Sturgis completely altered the outlook of the match and sent the Red Bulls on a downward spiral that they couldn’t recover from. Plagued by fatigue from altitude, heat and a long flight, New York’s play suffered dramatically. Thierry Henry was forced to play higher up the field to get more of the ball, moving him further away from the goal. Meanwhile, the rest of the Red Bulls were unable to string passes together to create clear-cut chances.
The Red Bulls need their top talent to find the back of the net as Henry has yet to tally a goal since scoring on May 26 against Columbus, and Tim Cahill has not scored since May 19 vs. the Galaxy. Fabian Espindola suffered from a two-month goal drought before finally finding the back of the net in the team’s July 1 win against the Dynamo.
New York needs to get back into a goal-scoring groove sooner rather than later, especially with tough slate fixtures ahead, facing MLS’s conference leaders in two out of its next three games.
SO LONG, JUNINHO
The Juninho experiment is officially over.
After just 13 games, the Brazilian midfielder had his contract cancelled by mutual consent last Wednesday. Despite leading the team in assists, Juninho was unable to produce some of his famed set-piece magic he displayed when he was playing with the Olympique Lyonnais.
“We are very disappointed that Juninho has decided to return to Brazil because he is a great professional and a very talented footballer,” said Roxburgh in a press release. “We wish him all of the best and thank him for his valuable contributions during the first half of the 2013 MLS campaign.”
The loss of Juninho could potentially be a damper to the Red Bulls’ center midfield depth. Petke has been employing mostly a 4-4-2 formation this season, with Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill and his preferred options in the center of the park. But any injuries or suspensions to the two incumbents will leave New York short.
GAME PREVIEW: RED BULLS VS. IMPACT
It may just be past the midpoint of the season, but the Red Bulls’ match against the Montreal Impact Saturday could decide New York’s conference championship hopes. For full coverage of the match, tune into MSG beginning at 6:30.
The Red Bulls are three points behind the Impact, but Montreal has two games in hand. With Saturday being the final time the clubs will meet in regular-season play – the teams have split the prior two meetings – the Red Bulls know that a win would be massive and help get them back in the race for the Eastern-Conference lead.
There is a pronounced Italian influence on the Impact, with stars like Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta leading the way. Di Vaio is currently tied for the lead for top goal scorer in MLS with 11 goals, while Nesta is still one of the most elegant defenders in world soccer, even at the age of 37.
Stopping Di Vaio is the No. 1 goal for Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson.
“We have to play tight, blocks. We want to play close to him and not give him the space,” the Swede said in a Q&A with the Red Bulls on the team’s official site.
This might be the perfect time for the Red Bulls to break out of their slump with the Impact are winless in their last three matches. Montreal has been porous defensively during their barren run, surrendering eight goals to the opposition.