For the second week running, Chicago get rolled on national TV and the Red Bulls are on the plus side of a slightly inflated scoreline. First to the Fire. How long can Sarachan stick with three in the back? Red Bull just jumped all over them and ripped them to shreds for about the first 15 minutes, then just sat back and waited for them to bleed to death.
The Fire are on life support now, but thankfully for them, they've got a major chance to turn things around with a visit from RSL this weekend. Additionally, they were still creating chances and actually bossed the midfield for large parts of the game. If they only had finishers, this might have been a much closer scoreline, though they probably still would have lost.
On the flip side, Red Bull looked pretty impressive considering they were missing some pretty big pieces of their starting lineup and had some players slotted in at unfamiliar positions. The question has to be - how much of that was the Bulls, and how much was it the Fire's inept defense? Angel looks to be on the fast-track to some big time numbers this year and I was pleasantly surprised with the play of Stammler in the middle of the park. Mathis is also looking better than he has at any point in the last three years or so.
Is it too early to anoint them as favorites this year? Probably. We'll have to see how they come through the summer. I think the fact that you've got so many players playing out of position is testament to the fact that they don't have an awful lot of depth. With injuries, old legs, and call-ups for the U-20's, Gold Cup, and Copa America, they may have to rely upon a questionable bench at times. Additionally, they have yet to face any of the other top teams in the East (excepting a Fire side on the skids), which is arguably much stronger than the West this year.
Finally, why the hell is Rob Stone still in the booth? He's like a drunken, myopic cheerleader-monkey hybrid, constantly calling out the wrong names and jabbering on excitedly about minor inanities. Hasn't ESPN, and American soccer in general, moved past this kind of minor league, goofball, moronic "kids game" mentality? Can't we do better than the likes of Stone, Bretos, and Miles? Ugh. If this is the type of yahoo we get going forward, at least give me the option to turn off the audio from the booth and just listen to the noise from the crowd.
Speaking of which, almost getting 10k out to a game they were offering free tickets to (first bullet point in the post) has to be a bit deflating for the Red Bulls. They can't get that new stadium fast enough, but will it really boost attendance? A hard to get to stadium, midweek fixture, and a history of crapiness aside - Arena has built a good side who are scoring lots of goals and winning games. You'd think that would start to draw in the fans.
While I'm in a bit of a mood let's go back to white-bread Stoner for a bit here. How do you top confusing tiny Dane Richards at 5'7", 150-odd pounds, with man-child Jozy Altidore (6'1", 175 lbs)? Why, you go and identify Gilbert Arenas as Jozy Altidore in an Adidas ad that pops up on the screen, of course. Ugh squared!