Jesse Marsch is not a happy man. The Impact dominated the first half playing some beautiful soccer. Quick passes, good distribution, great pace and a pair of goals showed the fans that their team's evolution had taken another great step forward. Then, the referee pulled out his knife (ok, not a knife, it was really his whistle) and slashed the Impact's tires with an undeserved penalty call in New York's favor deep into extra time, allowing the home team to pull level with
the expansion squad. Instead of calling roadside assistance while in the locker room, the visiting squad played the 2nd half as if they were up on blocks. No pace, no heart, no teamwork... simply put: No life. Too many personal errors and referee mistakes made this game a total loss.
Give to Caesar what is to Caesar:
* Thierry Henry was a BEAST. He dominated in this game and was allowed to do pretty much whatever he wanted to do on the field.
* The Impact looked like a great MLS team in the first half. Ball control, quick passing, communication and 2 goals showed some great flashes of this team's potential. If they can reproduce this for 90 minutes, this will be one dangerous team.
* Patrice Bernier played his best game in an Impact uniform. He battled, distributed the ball and never looked out of place.
* Justin Mapp continues to improve and is showing that he deserves his spot in the starting XI. A key contributor.
* Bernardo Corradi proved to be an upgrade over Justin Braun although he is still far away from being match fit for a full 90 minutes. The Corradi upgrade also allowed Sanna Nyassi to show his true colors as a 2nd striker and he did very well scoring the Impact's second goal.
Here comes the not-so-good:
* Donovan Ricketts had just about the worst game a goalie could have. On the first Red Bulls goal, his was not in good position and his reaction to Henry's header was even worse. He had some awful butter fingers on a lot of plays, he didn't control his back line with any authority and showed nothing that resembles a former MLS Keeper of the year.
* The referee gave the Red Bulls a penalty when Matteo Ferrari tackled a player in the box. The not-so-good in this not is not for Ferrari, it is for the referee. Ferrari got the ball. An awful call that deflated the team for the rest of the game.
* On Thierry Henry's 2nd goal, Zarek Valentin was responsible for a terrible giveaway deep in the defensive half that didn't allow Matteo Ferrari and Tyson Wahl get back into proper position in time.
* The Red Bulls' 4th goal had many defensive errors. Josh Gardner started it off with a badly time slide tackle in the corner where he missed the ball and the player. Ferrari, Wahl and Davy Arnaud were all culprits in the box as they showed no defensive effort whatsoever, allowing the ball to roll slowly by them until Mehdi Ballouchy tapped the ball behind Ricketts.
* Andrew Wenger, Justin Braun and Lamar Neagle came into the game in the 2nd half but with the team's lack of, well, everything, were unable to inject any kind of life into their team.
Overall, this was a game of two halves. The young Impact are still learning to put together a consistent effort for a full 90 minutes. They allowed themselves to be defeated by bad referee decision at the end of the first half. Unfortunately, unlike last week's tilt against Columbus, the referee was not completely to blame for this result.
During the first half, the Impact showed how they can play as a unit. They are dangerous team. The defense has muscle, the midfield can dictate the pace of the game and the offence can create chances. The highlights from the first half belonged to Nyassi, Bernier and Mapp. Justin Mapp has made up for the lost time in preseason to become one of the team's key players. Patrice Bernier showed why the front office brought back the local boy with a dominating display of ball control and distribution. Finally, Sanna Nyassi finally showed what he can do as a second striker now that the first striker shows constant quality.
The Impact's number one enemy right now is: ADVERSITY
There was no reason for the Impact to come out flat in the 2nd half. Yes, it is a momentum killer to have a bad call go against you in the final seconds of the first half. Yes, it's a buzz kill when you think you lose a lead for a second time in a short span. Despite all that, they need to continue to fight. It was obvious that the Columbus game was still very fresh in their minds and that there was a collective "Oh no, not again" feeling going around the entire squad. It also doesn't help when your goalkeeper doesn't inspire any confidence by constantly fumbling the ball and lacking control of his back line. Now that you have all that negativity simmering in the pot, you toss in the last ingredient which is a trip to Real Salt Lake against a MLS Cup favorite team on which you will play on short rest.
This is where Davy Arnaud, Patrice Bernier and Jesse Marsch will face their toughest test. The team's confidence is bruised. They deserved better and they know it. A result was within reach and they let it slip away. They have to rally the troops, quickly forget the last 2 games and be ready Wednesday night for one of the biggest games of the year. A couple of good days in practice, a team outing and some game film of the best moments from the Fire, Crew and Red Bulls games may be just what the doctor ordered to put this team back on track.
Until next time,
PS What's the best way to boost your confidence and get back on track? That's right. Beat the MLS Cup favorites. It can happen. Believe.