August 20, 2012
On why Miller should be benched, no team speed and top-scorer Cooper sitting the pine
By Michael Lewis
Roy Miller has struggled at the left fullback position.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
A few thoughts about the Red Bulls:
It seems just about every time I turn around, Roy Miller is either out of position or makes a mistake that leads to another goal.
Case in point: the 32nd minute of the Red Bulls' 3-2 home win over the Portland Timbers on Saturday night.
Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe stripped Miller of the ball and released the ball to Zizzo, who in turn round Franck Songo'o on the left side. Songo'o slipped a short feed to Zizzo, who found an onrushing Nagbe on the right side. Nabge then placed a low shot past goalkeeper Bill Gaudette for a 2-0 lead.
Getting stripped like that showed a lack of focus on Miller, a Costa Rican international who should have known better.
On the first goal, Miller was caught way up field on an overlap as the Timbers scored off a rapid counterattack, although in his defense, coach Hans Backe has stressed to the Costa Rican international to become part of the attack as much as possible.
Backe made the perfect substitution after the second goal, pulling Miller -- who walked directly to the locker room -- and bringing in Kenny Cooper (and he's the subject of yet another item below).
All things being equal and with no injuries, I would prefer to have Connor Lade at left back instead of Miller, who has become too much of a liability on defense.
Sal Zizzo, Nagbe and company exposed and reminded us how slow the Red Bulls are, especially in the back. It's great they try to push up their flank defenders. But when teams transition quickly and make fast counterattacks, the Red Bulls many times don't have enough numbers back and enough numbers to come back and help out.
With Dane Richards being dispatched to Vancouver for Sebastien Le Toux, whatever team speed they had is gone.
14 goals and sitting
Backe has to find some room for his top goal-scorer. Striker Kenny Cooper, who is tied with Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio for 14 goals, good for second in the league, has started two of the last three games on the bench. That includes Sunday's win, which he gave some much-needed life to the team when it fell behind, 2-0.
With Thierry Henry having cooled off (his last goal was that beautiful strike in the 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on July 18) and Sebastien Le Toux not finding the back of the net (for six consecutive Major League Soccer games), the Red Bulls need the presence of Cooper. Yes, he can be streaky, like many goal-scorers, but at least he can score in bunches over games.