Joel Lindpere and Mehdi Ballouchy Come Up Big For Red Bulls

Tonight’s game was a midfield war of attrition between FC Dallas and Red Bull New York.  I would have predicted that as the game wore on, Dallas would create more and more chances.  If New York was going to find a way into this game, I thought it would come from an early strike like the 1-0 game against Philadelphia last week.  Counter-intuitively, however, the Red Bulls pushed at the end of the first half and started the second half strong.  Without Luke Rodgers due to injury, New York started mostly the same lineup they out in the last match. Rost in goal, Miller, Ream, Keel and Solli in front of him.  Tainio as a defensive minded midfielder, Marquez as the playmaker, Lindpere and McCarty out wide, with Henry partnering Dane Richards up top.

Halfway through the second half, utility midfielder Dax McCarty went down holding his ankle.  Early signs showed a significant injury, but further scans are needed to determine the extent of the strain to his ankle.  Hans Backe was forced to make a substitution before the 88th minute, deciding to put Mehdi Ballouchy on the right side.  Despite earning spite from Red Bulls fans for his profligacy in all aspects of his play in previous appearances, the Moroccan came out in this game with a fire in his step.

On a play that had multiple attempts to put the final ball on frame, Richards chased down a loose ball from a rebound.  Richards drops the ball to Ballouchy who freezes for a second before sending a sublime ball into the channel for Lindpere.  The ball skips into the space between the keeper and Dallas’ backline.  Lindpere timed his run perfectly and slotted the ball into the hole under a diving Kevin Hartman.

After the goal, FC Dallas strung back to life and returned the pressure they hold over New York for most of the first half.  Somewhere the midst of good defensive positioning and disciplined tackling, Jan Gunnar Solli lost his head.  He had just given away possession in midfield to a Dallas player.  He immediately turned to recover the ball.  Another Dallas player got around the ball to back into Solli.  Having already committed to making the tackle, Solli gets contact on the ball by sliding through the Dallas player’s legs.  His right foot was showing studs but the New York defender got the ball with his left leg before making contact with the player.  However, a two footed tackle from behind is never going to win any fairplay awards and Solli was promptly shown a red card for his troubles.

My boy, Carlos Mendes came into the game for Dane Richards to cover at right back.  New York then played a compact 4-4-1, with Tainio playing anchor man and Marquez covering on either side for Lindpere and Ballouchy (who still doesn’t play wide).  After mounting a great deal of pressure from their many attacking options, FC Dallas lost defender Zach Loyd to a dangerous head injury from an aerial challenge.  Having already made all three substitutions, Dallas also finished the game with 10 men.

In the eighth minute of stoppage time, Thierry Henry ran down a high bouncing ball on a breakaway.  The star striker ran into the box and tried to chip the ball over outrushing Hartman.  FC Dallas’s keeper gets a hand to the ball, but Henry easily gets to the rebound and makes no mistake on an open net from six inches out.

Joel Lindpere opened the scoring on a beautiful ball played in from Mehdi Ballouchy.  Thierry Henry finished the game with an intelligent run in extra time.  New York’s defense and goalkeeper Frank Rost held tight to deny Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez.

No time to celebrate the playoff victory, as the Red Bulls now have to look to Sunday’s game against Supporters’ Shield winning Los Angeles Galaxy.  New York will be without Jan Gunnar Solli to red card suspension and Dax McCarty to injury.  Luke Rodgers may return to the lineup, but look to Richards returning to the right wing and Juan Agudelo getting a chance to shine in MLS’s marquee match-up.

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