The New York Red Bulls turned the clock back on Saturday night in their away match against Montreal Impact, and I don't at all mean that in a good way. Some inexcusable errors from the New York back line were matched by a midfield that was largely invisible in both halves, and a RBNY attack that was mostly toothless in the attacking third. One thing we can say about New York following the 3-1 loss to expansion Montreal: Tim Cahill alone isn't bringing the MLS Cup to Harrison, NJ.
Montreal Impact 3-1 NY Red Bulls: Nightmare return
Jan Gunnar Solli made his return from injury at Montreal, and, to put it nicely, things did not go well. Three minutes following the halftime break, Solli choose to take a few steps forward in order to close down Justin Mapp rather than remain on the dangerous Marco Di Vaio. That proved to be a poor decision. Mapp found an open Di Vaio in the penalty area, and the Montreal forward calmly opened his Major League Soccer account with a cool finish.
Things didn't get better for Solli as the half went on. He was out of position and nowhere to be found when Felipe connected with substitute Sanna Nyassi in the left portion of the penalty area. Nyassi deposited a shot that put the Impact back up by two goals, this time for good, and the Red Bulls back line meltdown was complete.
Montreal Impact 3-1 NY Red Bulls: What could have been?
The Red Bulls earned a 1-0 deficit three minutes into the second half, but Montreal's second goal, a tally that came two minutes after their first, shouldn't have counted. Two different Impact players found themselves in an offside position at different points during a run down the field, the most important being Davy Arnaud. While a clear sideline replay did not air on MSG, available camera angles seemed to show Roy Miller take a step backward as Arnaud began his run toward the box. Arnaud was thus (at least) two steps offside as Felipe chipped the ball toward his teammate. The assistant kept his flag down, however, and Arnaud completed his run and put Montreal up 2-0.
Make no mistake about it. That's a non-call that absolutely changes the feel and tempo of the game, even if Thierry Henry doesn't find the back of the net three minutes before the hour-mark. There's no excusing how poorly the Red Bulls played in the second half, and they didn't deserve even a single point on this night. Still, they should have been down just one goal with 40 minutes left on the clock.
Montreal Impact 3-1 NY Red Bulls: The formation
New York head coach Hans Backe played Henry and Kenny Cooper together up top, and he also elected to utilize the diamond midfield that so many RBNY supporters love so much. The results were unfortunately predictable. A frustrated Henry dropped back into the midfield before a third of the match was complete, Sebastien Le Toux finished the match with a single shot that wasn't even on target, and Joel Lindpere, credited with an assist, had himself another evening to forget. We have, in the past, seen how quickly Le Toux get can out of form when played out of position. That should definitely be a concern for Backe as he prepares for the Cahill era.
Montreal Impact 3-1 NY Red Bulls: Overall
A fan likes to try to immediately shrug such a poor result off with a "these games happen" attitude. It's true that all good teams have off nights, but New York were, somewhat out of nowhere, shockingly bad, lifeless and possibly even a bit unprepared for Montreal. Did the Cahill signing leave the squad with a sense of entitlement? Were they already thinking of facing off against Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur? Nobody can really say for sure, but there's no denying that New York weren't good enough on Saturday evening.
Certain Red Bulls fans believing that Rafa Marquez is close to being shipped out of town may want to cool such hopes for now.