Red Bulls defender Brandon Barklage scored the first two goals of his MLS career against former club D.C United. File Photo: Vera / DailyHarrison.com
Metro's return from the seemingly endless international break was an ugly one. New York followed a punishing loss to Chicago with an uninspiring 1:1 draw at Vancouver. The phenomenal pre-break run in the league seemed ages ago, and there was little optimism heading into a big match against old-school rivals DC United. Many expected a loss, but this team's results are frustratingly difficult to predict, even for the expert pundits like myself.* In the end New York scraped by on top of a thrilling 3-2 match, sending a solid contingent of DC fans home on a sad, long bus ride.
The hero of the day? Brandon Barklage. The right back, who is actually a DC reject, has risen from relative MLS obscurity (any player without Beckham, Donovan, or Henry on their jersey is pretty obscure, but he wasn't well known even by league standards) to the best right back in the during this particular 90 minute period on Sunday, June 24, 2012. More seriously, Barklage has logged in steady play throughout the year, doing well enough to push Jan Gunnar Solli into the midfield and hold a pretty strong grip on a starting spot. He was more noticeable than ever on Sunday, scoring two great goals against his former team.
Although New York dominated large swaths of the match, the defense looked rather shaky towards the end. DC came close to equalizing, but in the end the home team beat their rivals, and what more can fans ask for? Throughout the year this New York squad has proven that they can be successful even while missing important starting players, and head coach/vacationing Swedish gentleman Hans Backe will have some tough decisions on his hand when everyone is available. At the rate things have been going, that probably won't be until deep into 2017, so for now he can keep plugging in holes and hoping for the best.
Next week sees the Red Bulls face off against Toronto. Since playing Toronto is almost a guaranteed win, regardless of where the game is played or who is actually playing against them, expect New York to lose dramatically, or at least eek out an embarrassing draw. Or maybe they'll win 43-0, who knows? Its a tough call that will be a bit easier to predict later in the week as New York's ever-changing injured list (its written on an etch-a-sketch for convenience) is shaken up for a final time before the match.
Things looked rough to mark the return to league action after an extended break, but a big win against DC should do a good job of pumping up the team and providing a bit of a spark as New York gets back into the mid-season grind. Now all they have to do is keep the good results coming and build momentum.
* I am well aware I am not actually an expert pundit, please refrain from barraging me with hate-mail confirming this fact. Thanks!