Monday Morning Gaffer: Red Bulls show promise, but...

Can New York gain momentum after big Santos win?

Welcome to the first
edition of the Monday Morning Gaffer, where MLSsoccer.com writer Kristian Dyer
offers an in-depth take on where things stand with the New York Red Bulls.

Four impressions
from Saturday’s 3-1 win over Santos

-Joel Lindpere can run the midfield. The Estonian
international’s signing this off-season was met with a collective “who?” from
the New York faithful, most of whom were clamoring for a big-name creative
midfielder to spark the attack. But watching Lindpere play, he can hit a nice
ball and distribute to the wings, and also has some deft touches. Lindpere may
not put up huge numbers or draw attention from the fans and media, but the
types of plays he made again and again against Santos get results.

-Tim Ream is no ordinary rookie. His
second-round selection in January’s draft left some fans scratching their
heads, especially since bigger name defenders were still left on the draft
board. In the friendly win over Santos, Ream showed very good positioning and
perhaps, most importantly, a keen understanding with fellow centerback Mike
Petke. If his debut on Saturday night was any indication, one has to wonder how
long the countdown will be to the first post on BigSoccer.com to “Cap Tim
Ream.”

-Mac Kandji struggled last season when former
head coach Juan Carlos Osorio played him out of position on the wings or alone
as a striker. Kandji is a withdrawn forward and proved that against Santos,
playing well off trialist Ibrahim Salou and showing creativity and a nose for
goal. Does the emergence of the “Kandji Man” mean that a big name forward
signing is not needed this summer?

-Hans Backe downplayed the Santos result a bit after
the match, but also emphasized that for a team which finished last in the
league last year, winning any game is still important. This wasn’t the
first-choice selection for Santos, but they are a team who was in mid-season
form and proved a good test for New York. The result shouldn’t inspire dreams
of a MLS Cup title quite yet, but optimism is back in New York.

Four thoughts
heading into the season opener

-Bouna Coundoul is a fantastic talent in
MLS, but he has often struggled with consistency. Will the same keeper show up
against the Fire after a stellar game against Santos? Coundoul does boast the
advantage of a full off-season of work with the Red Bulls’ goalkeeper coach Des McAleenan, the best in the league.

-Roy
Miller
looked confident in his movement forward, although his forays up the
field were few and far between. Last season, the Costa Rican international looked
to boot the ball upfield as quickly as possible, often bypassing the midfield.
Chicago can’t expect this year’s team to be quite so fast to unleash the ball
as the team they faced last year.

-The
Fire
is a team in flux. This past off-season, the Fire lost forward Chris
Rolfe to Europe and Cuauhtemoc Blanco
returned to Mexico, not to mention the mid-summer loss of Bakary Soumare to
France. It will take some time for this team to form an identity under new head
coach Carlos de los Cobos. Like New
York, they may appear disjointed as both clubs play in a game that really
matters.

-Red
Bull Arena
should provide a true homefield advantage for the Red Bulls,
something the club never enjoyed while as a tenant at Giants Stadium.
Saturday’s game against Santos saw a mixed crowd, with many of the Brazilians
from the nearby Ironbound area of Newark openly cheering for both Santos and
New York. The MLS opener should be a crowd solidly behind New York and the
presence of a true 12th man at Harrison could potentially give the
Red Bulls the most passionate and vocal crowd in the league.

Two questions

-Seth
Stammler
was once a rock in the midfield and a face of the franchise,
having burst onto the scene late in 2006 as a rookie. But if he didn’t even make
the substitute’s bench against Santos, are Stammler’s days with New York numbered?

-Sinisa Ubiparipovic played the full
game against Santos and switched from the wing to a more defensive role in the
second half. Does this mean that he has a roster spot for the early part of the
season?