HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 15: Thierry Henry #14 of the New York Red Bulls looks on during an open practice on March 15, 2010 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
With the 2011 Red Bulls season opener against the Seattle Sounders coming up later today, we swapped three questions with SB Nation's Sounder at Heart. We'll kick off with one answered by S@H's Dave Clark. After the jump are the other two as well as our three answers to the questions Sounder At Heart posed.
Once A Metro asks Sounder At Heart
1) The departure of Blaise Nkufo shocked most in the MLS world. Do you think Seattle is prepared for a Nkufo-less frontline? And do you feel comfortable with your strikers coming into this weekend's match?
Seattle's front line is decimated by injury and the Nkufo news. It is essentially limited now to Fredy Montero and O'Brian White with only replacement level players available off the bench. This will remain true until either Nate Jaqua or Mike Fucito get healthy. While Roger Levesque will put in great effort and could help protect a lead, there isn't someone who can offer some punch for a late game winner. So, no, I'm not comfortable at all.
2) There seemed to be some type of agitation around the Seattle camp towards the end of the preseason. Sigi Schmid in particular revealed concerns surrounding the team. After the loss to the Galaxy and the additional pressure it created, do you think Seattle will be able refocus?
Post loss Sigi doesn't seem concerned. The team created its chances. Six shots on goal against a team that essentially bunkered is a handy number. But this is a trend now. We saw it last year against Red Bull here where Seattle dominated in all facets of the game and still lost. The issue that worries me more than the offense is the inability of Seattle to break up a counter. Maybe more tactical fouls should be used. That's cynical for sure, but the Sounders can't allow more than a single goal and get points over the next month or so. There just isn't enough variety in the offense at this time.
3) Kasey Keller has stated that this will be the last season in his illustrious career. On the lone goal Tuesday, he seemed somewhat slow on Juninho's strike. Are there any worries over Keller's play and is he a player that can be exploited by the Red Bulls?
Keller is showing his age. While he is still one of the better keepers in the League, he will struggle at stopping shots at times, particularly with balls that quickly work from opposite sides of the goal area. He is still a great leader and distributor and so has a strong role with the club, but it is unlikely that Seattle gets many wins from the ageless one stopping 5 or more shots on goal. Seattle's backline will have to be better at limiting quality shots and return to the form of 2009 when the reason for their defensive success had as much to do with the outfield players as it did Keller. Then again, last year's poorer Goals Against numbers were heavily influenced by awful set-play defense.
Sounder At Heart asks Once A Metro
1) Backe has re-evaluted his push for the Supporters Shield in light of the number of players that could be called up for the Gold Cup and Copa America. Is this also a sign that Red Bulls don't have the depth for the league season?
Of all the Metro/Red Bull rosters compiled -- I know not an illustrious bunch -- the 2011 version seems to have the greatest depth. Erik Soler and Hans Backe have assembled a squad with multiple options at nearly every position. The perceived lack of depth actually illustrates how much the New York team has grown as it's now rife with two budding United States internationals and an assortment of other CONCACAF stars. The Red Bulls will definitely be hurt in certain positions -- Carlos Mendes can fill in at centerback, but a second alternative still needs to emerge when Rafa Marquez and presumably Tim Ream leave for the Gold Cup -- overall, though, national team matches are something difficult to complain about. That being said, teams with fewer players away during the summer will most likely have a more consistent season and possibly gain more points over the entire campaign.
2) Rafa Marquez is moving back from CDM to a Centerback role. This will limit his ability to get into the attack. What do you think about having a DP in a defensive role like that?
To go along with the theme of the previous question, our central midfield is absolutely crammed. Depending upon Backe's configuration in the middle of the park, one or a combination of Tony Tchani, Jan Gunnar Solli, Joel Lindpere, Carl Robinson, or even Teemu Tainio should be able to flourish in front of our back four. This diversity allows the Swede to employ Marquez in the position where he has the greatest experience, central defense. Mendes played honorably last season and could start for most MLS sides, but Rafa is simply a cut above. The DP status shouldn't matter; the Red Bulls want silverware this season. Also, Marquez seemed to overextend himself last season in terms of his passing. He played some wonderful balls, but also gave away too many. Hopefully he will will simplify his game when he moves farther back on the pitch.
3) Ream and Agudelo are both going to featured elements in New York's potential success. Can the team count on both these youngsters for a full season and playoffs?
Ream is seen as a known quantity by most Red Bulls fans and the player who deserved the 2010 Rookie of the Year award. After playing every single minute for us in league play last season, Ream proved himself as a professional. In person, he gives off the impression of a diligent, no-nonsense demeanor that should allow him to make an Omar Gonzalez or Michael Parkhurst-like jump in his second year with Red Bull. Agudelo, however, is much more of a worry. He still hasn't even scored a pro goal yet . . . . Dane Richards and Luke Rodgers will hopefully help carry the scoring load. If that trio can bag a combined dozen goals and Thierry Henry performs as he should, the Red Bulls should be comfortable with their attack.
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