Joel Lindpere seems to have a flair for the dramatic. After he scored the first goal ever at Red Bull Arena last week in a friendly, he topped that achievement by scoring the first goal at the new park that counted, and his brilliant strike held up as the Red Bulls opened their 2010 campaign with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire. The Red Bulls withstood everything the Fire threw at them, and needed goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul to be spectacular at times, but the Red Bulls got the all important three points, and really couldn't have asked for a better start to their 2010 season.
The Red Bulls were by no means perfect tonight. Their passing and technical play was not nearly as good as it was a week ago against Santos. Then again, Santos looked largely disinterested, and tonight the Fire came to play. In the first half, the Red Bulls had some good chances but also passed up some chances. Numerous times the Red Bulls looked like they had opportunities to take shots and test young keeper Andrew Dykstra, but no one seemed to want to fire on net. Lindpere has proved that he doesn't mind shooting, and his rip from outside the eighteen was picture perfect. New York looked a little shaky in the 2nd half, only generating a few chances, while Chicago carried most of the play. Bouna Coundoul came up enormous, especially stopping Mike Banner's free kick attempt which looked ticketed for the top corner. The back four of Jeremy Hall, Mike Petke, Tim Ream and Roy Miller did its job along with Coundoul, and the Red Bulls held a clean sheet, a good sign for a team which gave up way too many goals a year ago.
"It was a very, very even game, it could have been a draw," Head Coach Hans Backe said. "We forced it a little too much in our attacking game. There was no real rhythm in our passing game. But it's great start for us after a rough last season, and going into two away games."
Retuning to action was captain and forward Juan Pablo Angel, which was a good sign to see, even if he didn't have one of his best games.
"We know we could have played a little better," Angel said. "Today was about the result, getting the three points, and getting the first game of the season in our bags against a very decent team. They played well, They're a good passing team. But we still managed to get a result, and now its about building up from there and hopefully having a decent season."
Angel looked a little bit rusty, but still had a few chances and could have put one home. Most importantly, he appeared healthy. After the match he noted that his knew is feeling a lot better but is still a little sore.
Lindpere was the best player on the field for the Red Bulls, earning him Once A Metro Man of the Match honors. Coundoul comes in at a close second, with his great saves upholding the slim one-goal margin. The early returns from Lindpere are very good. Most foreign players need a little time to get used to the type of game that MLS presents, but Lindpere looks like he has fit in quite well. His physicality and work rate are fantastic, and he can obviously finish. It looks like the Red Bulls will try to attack through the Estonian going forward.
We'll have much more reaction and analysis of tonight's match. For now, the Red Bulls' 2010 campaign is off to a dream start. We'll see how long they can ride the wave