An international glare briefly dwelled on Major League Soccer in Week 18. Former England captain David Beckham made his LA Galaxy return against New York Red Bulls and the Galaxy raced into a 3-0 lead sparked by stunning strikes by Alecko Eskandarian and Landon Donovan, Beckham’s most high-profile critic.
New York eventually pulled back a goal through a Juan Pablo Angel penalty, but were toothless in an uneventful second half. The circus then moved on to Los Angeles, where Beckham’s angry controntation with the Galaxy’s Riot Squad predictably soured the visit of AC Milan.
But at Giants Stadium, another story bubbled away from the glitz and flashbulbs. Once again, the Red Bulls had been swept aside with little trouble and, though the Galaxy are resurgent, it was yet another result which highlighted the team’s inability to get a grasp on matches – home or away – and drag itself out of the mire.
In fact, they’re the worst team in the league – and they’ve played the most games.
After 20 matches of the 2009 season, the Red Bulls have put just 10 points on the board, won two matches and scored only 16 goals. A goal difference of -17 tells its own story. Stranded at the bottom of MLS, all hope of a repeat of 2008’s MLS Cup Final appearance long since dashed, the rest of 2009 will be about introspection, planning and playing for pride. And for one man in particular, it’ll be about hoping he keeps his job even long enough to earn a stay of execution.
Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio is under fire and if a turnaround is not forthcoming then he is surely coming to the end of his time in charge. RBNY managing director Erik Stover and technical director Jeff Agoos were summoned to Austria earlier this month amid reports that Red Bull is growing frustrated with the team’s performances. Despite returning with a vote of confidence for Osorio, it would be difficult to argue that the embattled coach is in the clear. Agoos himself is probably also at risk.
10 points from 20 games
New York Red Bulls, formerly MetroStars, came into the 2009 season off the back of their most successful MLS post-season. Last November they played Columbus Crew in the final of MLS Cup, losing 3-1 at the Home Depot Center.
MetroStars were taken over by energy drinks giant Red Bull in 2006. While their top-to-bottom rebranding may be crass, Red Bull has a proven sports pedigree. It owns its local football club in Salzburg, Austria, another in Brazil and two Formula 1 racing teams, as well as being the creator of Red Bull Air Race. It recently purchased a football club in Leipzig, Germany.
With a growing knowledge of sports ownership, Red Bull has looked upon RBNY’s efforts this season with frustration. 20 matches in, prospects don’t look good for New York and Osorio. They last won in the league on 8th May, embarking upon an eleven-game winless streak which has cemented the team to the bottom of the table.
The scene was set by a first kick thrashing by Seattle Sounders, but it is the Red Bulls’ form against fellow strugglers which is perhaps most alarming. They drew with New England Revolution way back in March, but suffered a 4-0 defeat at Gillette Stadium on 7th June on an evening which saw Taylor Twellman fire in his 100th career goal. FC Dallas, for so long the 2009 poster-boy for failure, bettered New York in early July. Jeff Cunningham’s brace in three heady first half minutes was enough to see off the Red Bulls despite Juan Pablo Angel’s consolation goal. Angel has scored seven so far, but lapses all too often into the poor finishing which characterised much of his time at Aston Villa.
The two wins came, unsurprisingly, at home. Way back in April, Angel was joined on the scoresheet by his bright young partner, Mac Kandji, as New York picked up a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake, a team distinctly worse on the road than they are at home. In their second win the team looked as if it were clicking, and certainly accentuated the ineptitude of their opponents. After their 4-1 win (in which all four goals were scored in a blistering first half), few would have predicted New York would be three points behind San Jose Earthquakes after week 18.
The difference between RBNY and its closest rivals since that win on 8th May is the occasional moments of positivity in Dallas and San Jose. Both have more wins on the board and both have beaten teams much higher up the league. The Quakes’ three home wins came against Houston Dynamo, RSL and LA Galaxy, while FCD picked up maximums against Toronto FC, Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew and – predictably – New York.
Osorio on borrowed time?
While and FC Dallas consider the season disastrous, they are both trumped by Juan Carlos Osorio. Formerly on the coaching staff of Manchester City, the former MetroStars assistant returned to Major League Soccer via Millionarios. He led Chicago Fire to the playoffs and returned to Giants Stadium to coach RBNY for the 2008 season. Despite taking the team to MLS Cup Final last year, Osorio has taken the team through a dignity-sapping 2009, achieving one of the worst records in MLS history and being not only the worst team in MLS, but allegedly the worst in American sports.
A poll as far back as 8th June on Red Bulls Offside returned a majority of 62 percent in favour of firing Osorio and the blog’s author, Dave Martinez, made his view clear: “That was then, and this is now. Quite frankly, after weeks of failed expectations and hopes of a turnaround, I am throwing in the towel…Juan Carlos Osorio has to go.” Support is incredibly thin on the ground, something even Red Bull will be painfully aware of.
While it’s never pleasant to see supporters calling for a coach’s head, it is a reality of football that heads roll on the back of failure, and there is no other word to describe New York’s 2009 season. It is increasingly unlikely that Osorio will see out the campaign in-post, let alone return in 2010. And unpalatable though that may be, it’s difficult to argue that there is any option.