After two early gaffes, the Red Bulls worked to bring themselves within one of Real Salt Lake before the half, then equalized in the second. And there it ended, 2-2.
But a positive result wasn't really the goal here -- meaningless cup on the line aside. It's all about working the kinks tactically, fitness and filling out the rest of the roster. So, some thoughts...
- Reportedly, in the friendly against Malmo FF, Head Coach Mike Petke went with a 4-1-4-1. Last night, he went with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, depending on who you talk to. Either way, it looks like Petke is going to go with some variation of a five man midfield, whether the wings are pushed up or not and how the midfielders play centrally. That said, tactics are only a start.
- Aside from the first five minutes, where the Red Bulls really were in control of that game. Against a lesser keeper -- and Josh Saunders is nothing to scoff at -- with in-form players, the Red Bulls probably end the half tied. At least.
- Speaking of those first two goals, a lot of people are laying the blame at the feet of Connor Lade, which isn't entirely fair in my opinion. Santiago Castano, who got the start over Luis Robles as a health precaution, needs to communicate with his defenders better, too. Neither Lade, nor Markus Holgersson, seemed to know whether or not they should play the ball or if Castano would come out.
- Juninho looked more effective taking corners than Thierry Henry. The question there is whether or not Juninho can take left side corners as he only took the right side ones last night.
- Even in the second half, when RSL put a number of their starters in and the Red Bulls had put their subs and trialists in, RSL didn't produce many chances. Yeah, the commentators remarked it looked like RSL was running a "neutral zone trap" (a term I'm sure our New Jersey Devils fan readers will notice), they didn't do a lot in the final third. Robbie Findley had a few good chances, but not much else. The Red Bulls got the ball into the final third a bit more as I recall, they just couldn't get too many shots off.
- Speaking of second half performances: Kosuke Kimura, Amando Moreno and Michael Bustamante impressed. Roy Miller didn't look like himself (i.e. bad). I wasn't as enthused with Marius Obekop as others were. He seemed to have skill, but lacked the willingness to take guys on.
- Peguy Luyindula didn't do a ton for me, either, though I think there's more to come from him.
- Speaking of trialists, Lyindula, Obekop and Rafhael Domingues have to be competing for a limited number of contracts. It's pure speculation, but with the number of international players already on the roster, the Red Bulls can't have too many open international slots.