The dust has settled on the Red Bulls' three hour long party last night and understandably, Red Bulls fans can't wait for next week. A triumphant performance over Santos in which the Red Bulls looked dominant for long stretches would leave many to believe they can do some damage in the upcoming MLS regular season. The Red Bulls were fluid, organized, confident, and they finished their chances. From a technical standpoint, New York looked miles better than it had the past two seasons under Juan Carlos Osorio. I think you could have counted on one hand the amount of long balls the defense hopelessly tried, which was seemingly a staple of Osorio's Red Bulls in 2008 and 2009. Backe's version of the team seems very comfortable on the ball, and last night looked to build the attack methodically.
Of course, expectation HAVE to be lowered just a bit. There were so many positive signs last night, but its very easy for everyone to get ahead of themselves. This team did finish dead last in MLS last year, and while changes were made all throughout the organization, a drastic turnaround should not be expected in just one season. Certainly the Red Bulls will be improved; it's almost impossible not to improve upon last year's disaster. But a realistic goal for the team, as many of them have said, is making the playoffs The Red Bulls definitely have the talent in place to make the playoffs in MLS. WIth Juan Pablo Angel healthy, he will produce. Midfielder Joel Lindpere looked really good last night. He is physical, a good passer with good vision, and as evidenced by his goal, can finish. And in the back, the bright spot had to be rookie Tim Ream, who looked nothing like a rookie but more like a seasoned veteran. The Red Bulls and their fans should enjoy watching Ream now, because he may not be with them for a very long time.
The Once A Metro Man of the Match was Mike Petke. Although the stadium public address announced that Dane Richards was the MOTM, we gave it to Petke. Certainly, his selection was a bit ceremonious, although he did play a phenomenal game. Petke and Ream didn't fall for Neymar's stepovers and stayed collected and organized. Right before halftime, Petke scored off a corner kick, a goal he later mentioned that he'd remember for the rest for his life. You just have to love Petke's dedication and passion for the organization. He kissed the Red Bulls badge on his jersey during his goal celebration, and it really seemed heartfelt. It was fitting that he scored a goal in this game, being from the area and having played so long for the MetroStars/Red Bulls.
We've put up some video coverage from the post-game press conference, and soon we'll be adding some more player reactions. We'll hopefully be able to put up some some pictures from last night as well. Check back soon when we'll take a look at each individual player's performance in last night's game.