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Match Review: Preseason Against the Philadelphia Union

New York played their first (non closed door) match of their preseason yesterday on a rain soaked pitch in Jacksonville, Florida. The game wasn't always pretty but there are certainly some positives to take away. Let's take a look at what we learned from last night's match.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After the Red Bulls' first "the sky is falling" moment caused last week by a meaningless loss to a crumby college side, New York seemed to right the ship last night with their first win of the preseason coming against "rivals" the Philadelphia Union.  While we shouldn't be taking these preseason friendlies too seriously, there are a few notes of interest that can be taken out of last night's 2-1 win.

Here's what we liked:

  • Lloyd Sam looks ready to play

The speedy English winger came into the match looking like he's already in mid-season form.   Sam opened the scoring in the 8th minute with a break away goal down the right flank, beating Union keeper, Zac MacMath with bullet to the far post.  Sam also notched an assist in the 36th minute with a beautiful flick to Thierry Henry, who slammed one home from just out side of the box.  If Lloyd is able to keep up this type of production throughout the preseason, Red Bull boss Mike Petke will be hard pressed not to give him the starting spot.  Eric Alexander has been put on notice.

  • Armando is the real deal

One of New York's newest signings, Armando put in an extremely promising shift paired up with veteran center back Jamison Olave.  Besides an expected shaky start to the match, the Spanish defender looked cool and confident with his place in the back line and seemed to have no problems barking directions to keep things organized.  With Ibrahim Sekagya putting in a decent shift as well, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top for a starting spot come the season opener.

  • The boys are playing like a team out there

For the first 45, the starting 11 played more like a team than the pick up style games of preseasons past.  There was some decent passing, some good hustle, and communication all around the pitch.   Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill combined for some beautiful play up top and Peguy Luyindula continued to demonstrate a creative eye for passing in the midfield.  For nothing but a second preseason match, it was a promising display.

Here's what we didn't like:

  • Robles called for time wasting????

Sometime  around the 28th minute, New York keeper Luis Robles was whistled (without warning) for handling the ball too long.  The Union leveled the score on the ensuing free kick from inside the box.  Referee Chris Penson told Mike Petke after that match that the call was part of a new initiative put in place by MLS and PRO in order to cut down on the amount of time wasting in games.  While Penso wasn't exactly wrong for calling the foul, it's unusual to see it called so early in a match and without any prior warning.

  • Marius Obekop needs some polishing

Rightly pulled from the game after only 28 minutes of play in the second half, Marius Obekop laid a stinker of a match.  Continuing his habit of running around like a chicken that never had a head in the first place, the winger/center mid/whatever he seemed to be doing at the moment looked completely lost out there.

All in all, there wasn't much to be upset with in New York's second match of the preseason.   For the first time in who knows how long, we have a very familiar looking starting 11 ready to take the pitch come March 8th and the boys look comfortable starting the season together.  The Red Bulls will have a few more chances for fine tuning when they take part in the Disney World Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, Florida later this month.