That’s how you have to see the Red Bulls now after taking the team’s third forward, Juan Agudelo, and trading him for one of the best defenders in MLS, Heath Pearce (along with allocation money, salary cap relief and a cut of any future Agudelo transfer).
Make no mistake. Agudelo is still a rising star and has the potential to one day be a superstar. That being said, the reality is he is not a player who was going to crack the starting lineup on a healthy Red Bulls team. Not with Kenny Cooper playing out of his mind, and not with Thierry Henry being Thierry Henry.
That’s something Agudelo knew and was a key reason why he wanted to leave the Red Bulls, who originally didn’t want to part with their teen phenom, but ultimately couldn’t pass up on a trade that made them significantly better as a team.
Pearce’s arrival at Red Bull Arena won’t draw the buzz that Agudelo’s move to LA will, but he is the kind of top-notch defender every team with championship aspirations needs. He can play any position along the back-line, especially left back, his natural position, which also happens to be New York’s weakest position.
Yes, New York’s defense had done well in recent weeks despite a rash of injuries, but the patchwork group had been playing over its head and expecting such production over the course of a season was never realistic.
Then you have Wilman Conde, who along with justifying concerns about his inability to stay healthy, was also recently arrested for pushing a police officer. That sort of action raises some questions about just how much the team can rely on him.
The trade does leave New York thin at forward, but the Red Bulls now have enough allocation money to head into the summer months capable of adding one or two attacking players. This could be what the Red Bulls need to close the gap on MLS Cup favorites Seattle and Real Salt Lake.
The Agudelo-Pearce blockbuster trade wasn’t the only news hitting MLS on Thursday. Here is a closer look at some of the other storylines:
UNION SHIP CALIFF TO CHIVAS USA
The Philadelphia Union’s deal to send former captain Dan Califf to Chivas USA had been rumored for days, and revealed by Union head coach Peter Nowak, but Thursday we learned exactly what the veteran centerback could bring in a trade.
The Goats sent Philly midfielder Michael Lahoud and allocation money for Califf, a trade that appears to be a big win for Chivas USA on the surface. They land a veteran centerback and only part with some cash and a player in Lahoud who has struggled for years to stay healthy.
So why did Philly do it? The word out of Union camp was that there was a very real concern about Califf’s diminishing game, and by trading him, the club opens the door for the team to field a more athletic back-line. Sheanon Williams will slide over from right back to partner with Carlos Valdes in central defense while impressive rookie Ray Gaddis has emerged as a solid start, whether at right back or left back.
Then you have Lahoud, a player who has the sort of versatility Nowak loves. He has played mostly as a winger in MLS, but also has some experience at right back, where he may ultimately provide cover.
The trade still leaves the Union with a lack of depth at centerback, with Valdes the only natural centerback on the entire roster. With allocation money to use this summer, it is a safe bet the Union will be looking for a central defender.
Chivas USA doesn’t seem too concerned about Califf’s form, and whether he is on the decline. Head coach Robin Fraser knows Califf well, having mentored him when the two were LA Galaxy defenders during Califf’s rookie season in 2000. He will help offset the departure of Heath Pearce to New York, while providing some needed locker room leadership.
SHEA SUSPENDED THREE MATCHES
MLS is cracking down on ugly and reckless tackles by handing down suspensions. That is nothing new. On Thursday, the league provided a reminder that players better steer clear of match officials.
Brek Shea was hit with a three-match suspension for deliberately kicking a ball at an assistant referee during Dallas’ loss to the Columbus Crew last Sunday. After being whistled for a foul, Shea kicked a ball up into the air and volleyed it into the midsection of the assistant referee standing near him. The incident didn’t even draw a yellow for Shea during the match, but the MLS Disciplinary Committee saw enough to punish the U.S. national team winger.
With Shea a good bet to be part of the U.S. national team camp for five upcoming matches, the suspension could be pushed back into mid-June, which could mean Shea would be out of action for FC Dallas until July.
MLS WEEK 11 PREVIEWS: TOP 5 MATCHES TO WATCH
1- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
This Cascadia rivalry has even more buzz this time around because both the Whitecaps and the Sounders are playing well; it should be pretty closely contested. Seattle’s defense has been stingy lately and should be able to stifle Vancouver’s attack. Look for Seattle’s attack to generate enough chances in a valuable road win. Whitecaps 0, SOUNDERS 2
2- CHIVAS USA vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY
It’s tough to call it a SuperClasico when both teams have losing records, but this traditionally one-sided rivalry is actually as evenly matched as it has ever been. The arrival of Juan Agudelo to Chivas USA adds some extra spice, but the Galaxy’s second-half performance in Montreal last week suggests the defending champs can still turn it up when needed. Look for the Galaxy to spoil Agudelo’s Chivas debut. Chivas USA 0, GALAXY 1
3- COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY
With Conor Casey back in the fold, the Rapids should be feeling good, but their defense looked atrocious in the team’s mid-week loss to D.C. United. Sporting KC surely watched that match and will look to get their own faltering offense going. Look for Kei Kamara to have a big game as KC snaps their three-match losing streak. Rapids 1, SPORTING KC 2.
4- MONTREAL IMPACT vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS
The Red Bulls are red-hot, but they haven’t exactly been playing in-form teams. Montreal has looked much better in recent weeks and should seriously test a New York side that should have Heath Pearce in uniform for the match. That may not be enough to help keep the winning streak going, though. Impact 1, Red Bulls 1.
5- D.C. UNITED vs. TORONTO FC
So why would a game with an 0-8 team be on this list? D.C. United looked outstanding showing against Colorado, and will be heavily favored to do the same to TFC. The Canadian club has already set a record for most losses to start the season, but it will be interesting to see if the team can finally carry over some momentum from their impressive cup competition form into league play. Don’t bet on it. United should roll at RFK Stadium. D.C. UNITED 3, Toronto FC 1.