HARRISON, NJ - APRIL 16: Luke Rodgers #9 of the New York Red Bulls celebrates his goal at 2 minutes with teammate Thierry Henry #14 against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 16, 2011 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
Looking at the attack for the New York Red Bulls is probably the easiest of all the mid- season reports, which may be why it comes last. After all there are only five members of the team listed as forwards on the roster, and this is the most potent attack we've seen in a few years for our favorite side. The Red Bulls are on pace to score 54 goals (albeit in a 34 game schedule, as opposed to the usual 32). This would make them the third highest scoring side in club history. The normal starting duo in Hans Backe's preferred 4-4-2 has been Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers, provided both are healthy. Henry is tied for the league lead in goals with eight tallies, and Rodgers is tied for 9th with five. If this projects out to the full season, that would give them at least 16 and 10. Two players with double- digit scores is a feat that has only happened five times in Red Bulls history, and would put them third on the list of combined season scorers behind Adolfo Valencia (16) and Alex Comas (13) in 2000 and Juan Pablo Angel (19) and Jozy Altidore (9) in 2007. For those of you interested in more team history, if Dane Richards picks up on his solid pace and somehow also makes 10 goals they would join only one trio of double digit scorers in team history, behind only Valencia, Comas, and Clint Mathis (10) in 2000.
The team's torrid scoring pace is more remarkable when you consider they started the season by only scoring two goals in their first four games. There was alot of conversation on this site and elsewhere wondering why the offense was stagnating, and if Henry was going to join the long list of washed up foreign stars who had come to RBNY well past their prime to live out a semi-professional retirement, and enjoy the cultural delights of NYC while occasionally breaking a sweat on the pitch. He looked slow, old, and not particularly interested. The big change came in the fourth match against the San Jose Earthquakes, when Backe inserted Luke Rodgers into the starting lineup. The Red Bulls scored three goals, and the offense has clicked fairly well since. Even with the roster shuffling caused by Gold Cup absences, injuries, and red cards, the Red Bulls have not been shut out in the last thirteen regular season games, an astounding streak.
Now they have slowed down in the last six games, only scoring nine goals. A big part of that is the aforementioned roster shuffling, as well as the incredibly ridiculous recent stretch of three games in eight days, which seemed to sap alot of energy from the team. As Matt pointed out in the mid-field report, the trade of DeRo may have some severe consequences for the attack going forward, as he and Henry were the two most likely to connect with the back line/Tainio to start the attacking build-up. Hopefully Dax McCarty will be able to be that bridge, and the full time return of Juan Agudelo and Dane Richards will revitalize this powerful attack for the second half of the season.
Mid-term grades for the attackers:
Juan Agudelo- B-
I make no denial that I am a huge fan of Juan Agudelo. He is an exciting player with unlimited potential, who can bring an element of spontaneous creativity that is missing in most of US soccer, nevermind just the Red Bulls. New York needs to do what it takes to keep him at least through the next World Cup. However, he hasn't scored since April 21 against the Swamp, and it became painfully obvious that he and Henry just weren't clicking as the starters. Hans Backe's baffling substitution strategies have possibly hurt his development this year, but here's to continual wishes for him to have more break out performances.
Thierry Henry- A-
The French legend has been almost everything we've hoped for since the game against San Jose, leading the league in goals as well as tying for the team lead in assists. He demonstrates flair on the ball, as well as an eye for the passing lanes we don't often see in MLS. His absence is definitely felt when he's out, and he has improved in many eyes with his hustle to track back on defense and win the ball around midfield. The detraction is for his terrible start to the year, and the time he's missed. No one wants him run into the ground (maybe sub him out once in awhile Hans?), but we need him on the field to succeed this year.
Corey Hertzog- INC
Came into the year with a bit of hype, but no determination can be made based on 35 minutes played. Except that he seems slow. Like really, really slow. Hopefully that's just an optical illusion.
Dane Richards- B+
See the mid-field report. The Red Bulls need him on the wings, and hopefully his terrific Gold Cup will give him the confidence to hit decent crosses.
Luke Rodgers- A
The former Notts County striker has been a godsend. To steal a cliche, he's a British bulldog. He not the fastest guy on the pitch, but he has speed. He tenacious and relentless, and he will absolutely annoy the piss out of the opposing teams. He has an absolutely deft touch around the goal, and has seemingly mastered the soft chip over a sprawling keeper. He is also the perfect complement to Henry, someone with the knowledge to make the right runs, and also to pressure the defense up high when Henry is further back or just catching his wind. He shows characteristics of a combination of Seth Stammler and Clint Mathis. The only knock against him is all the little knocks he takes. Not having him for any of the last three games really hurt the team. Like Henry, his being on the field is a key to Red Bulls' trophy hunt this year.