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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

March 4, 2013
Dissecting the Red Bulls' 3-3 draw

Jamison Olave endured a tough debut with the Red Bulls on Sunday night.
Jamison Olave endured a tough debut with the Red Bulls on Sunday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

If you were a neutral spectator, you obviously enjoyed the Red Bulls' exciting and dramatic 3-3 draw at the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

If you were a Red Bulls fan, I would you did not, especially in the second half.

Here are some thoughts about the game:

Where was the leadership?

After grabbing that two-goal lead, the Red Bulls were content on allowing the Portland Timbers control for virtually the entire second half. They could have won it late -- twice -- via Ryan Johnson. Where was the Red Bulls' leadership on the field to gain possession and slow the game down and take some time off the clock? Did not see very much of it from Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill or Juninho in the second half. I expected more from them or anyone on the fiel.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Olave

Great job by Jamison Olave on his first-half goal, but then again, he doesn't get paid to score goals, but to stop them. Diego Valeri beat him on Portland's first equalizing goal and he wound up getting credit for the Timbers' third goal in the 83rd minute as an own goal. The last thing the Red Bulls need is a veteran central defender with a decent MLS history getting headlines for the wrong and getting beat. Remember, he had been called for a pair of penalty kicks at the Tucson Desert Diamond Cup.

A game of two halves

What a great first half and debut for Fabian Espindola. You could not ask for more -- two goals and someone who never stopped working and running. Just what happened to him in the second half? Give Portland some credit for shutting him down. I would shudder to think that the Argentine was winded from all his first-half running.

On the rebound

Leaving the rebound for Darlington Nagbe to cut the lead to 3-2 was a gift. Luis Robles can't afford to make mistakes like that, especially with the team's shaky backline. It certainly doesn't get any easier next Sunday, when the Red Bulls venture to the home of Chris Wondolowski (27 goals) and the San Jose Earthquakes. In case you were wondering, Ryan Meara, who did not see any pre-season action, won't be ready to play until April at the earliest.

Henry and artificial turf

The good news is that Henry played on artificial turf. The bad news is that he did not have a much of an impact on the match.

The good news down the line is that the Red Bulls has only two more matches on turf -- at New England on May 1 and at Seattle on Sept. 29.

Getting from here to there

The Red Bulls were supposed to arrive in Portland on Friday, but their flight from Newark got cancelled and they were forced to arrive on Saturday, a day prior to the match. It certainly did not help.

MLS has a rule -- a stupid rule -- that allows teams to use charter flights only four times -- that's four segments -- during a season. The league claims that if a team flew via charter it would get an an unfair competitive advantage.

But what happens when a team can't get to a city because of outside factors? In this time of unpredictabe weather and climate change (the season begins at the start of March and MLS Cup has moved to the first week of December) and the airlines being more and more unreliable, teams should be given the option of taking a charter flight for any match if they have the money.

Doesn't having a flight cancelled due to circumstances out of a team's control constitute an unfair disadvantage?

The league should revisit this policy, especially on coast-to-coast flights.
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