Disaster struck on Wednesday night as the New York Red Bulls were absolutely embarrassed by a Colorado Rapids side that had yet to beat an opponent with a winning record and had also just lost their leading scorer to a season ending achilles injury.
Manager Hans Backe was forced to make a last minute change to New York's starting lineup as Teemu Tainio was ruled out of action due to a knock picked up against Chivas a few days earlier and replaced by Mehdi Ballouchy in the center midfield. The last time Tainio missed a match (July 9th due to yellow card accumulation against DC United), Backe put Ballouchy on the left side of the midfield and moved Lindpere to the central midfield. Against Colorado, Backe shuffled the lineup again dropping Thierry Henry into the left side of the midfield and moving Lindpere into a strange withdrawn forward/attacking midfield position that left him too far away from much of the first half action to be effective.
To recap the Rapids scoring (three goals in the first third of the match alone), Sanna Nyassi started off his night blowing by a flat footed Carlos Mendes in just the second minute to put Colorado up 1-0. Twenty minutes later, after an errant clearance by Mendes, Nyassi picked up the loose ball in the midfield and hit an unchallenged shot from distance that hit off the post and fell to Wells Thompson who was left unmarked by Jan Gunnar Solli. Thompson collected the ball and slipped his shot into the back of the net.
Nyassi continued to burn New York's defenders, as he cut left past Tim Ream, sped past Carlos Mendes, and slotted a shot past goalkeeper Frank Rost in the thirty-first minute. Neither team made any changes at the half and it was only a matter of time until Nyassi found the back of the net again to complete his hat trick, this time cutting to his right and leaving Carlos Mendes behind in the dust.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the first sixty-five minutes of the match besides what was possibly Sanna Nyassi's best career performance was the constant flirting between Thierry Henry and Pablo Mastroeni. And finally, after four Colorado goals, Henry got New York on the scoreboard in the 67th minute, hitting a well-placed shot past Colorado keeper Matt Pickens on a pass from Juan Agudelo. The game then quickly transformed into the much more familiar snooze-fest that Red Bulls supporters have seen as of late with Colorado happy to sit back and defend and let the Red Bulls possess only to turn the ball over or take long-range shots that usually didn't require movement from Colorado's keeper. As expected, despite having three games this week, Hans Backe only used one substitution even though the game was clearly out of hand.
A couple of quick takeaways: Mehdi Ballouchy and Dax McCarty do not belong starting in the central midfield together. They do not support New York's back four defensively and are not capable of controlling possession together. Also, Carlos Mendes is not the same player that held down the defense alongside then rookie Tim Ream last season, and the Red Bulls will gladly welcome Rafa Marquez back to the starting lineup as soon as Saturday against FC Dallas.
The one positive note aside from Henry scoring his league leading tenth goal of the season was Chris Albright's first league appearance of the season as he was brought on for Dax McCarty for the last twenty minutes of the match. A healthy Chris Albright would give Hans Backe some flexibility to move Jan Gunnar Solli into the midfield, his natural position, when Teemu Tainio is missing as opposed to starting Mehdi Ballouchy.
How will the Red Bulls respond after another disappointing performance? What will Red Bull Arena be like on Saturday? Does New York still need to make changes during the current transfer period to turn the season around? Share your thoughts below.