New York Red Bulls 1-1 Houston Dynamo
New York Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler said before Saturday's 1-1 tie with Houston that the trade for midfielder Dwayne De Rosario eliminated all excuses for his team failing to win the 2011 MLS Cup.
De Rosario was regarded after his Friday trade from Toronto for Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman as the final piece in a collection of established and rising stars that includes Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, Dane Richards and Juan Agudelo. The dynamic force he is expected to add to the midfield manifested itself in his assist on Richards' goal in the 47th minute.
''I'll be disappointed if we don't win, that's for sure,'' Soler said before De Rosario replaced Mehdi Ballouchy after a scoreless and sluggish first half. ''We have a good team that is good enough to do it this year, and we'll do everything we can to achieve that goal.''
Though none of the players wanted to say it, the addition of the 32-year-old De Rosario could make the Red Bulls the MLS Cup favorites over a packed Salt Lake City squad. To not win it this year, given the multimillion dollar salaries of Henry and Marquez and the creative talent of De Rosario, would be seen as a grand fiasco.
''We're good enough,'' coach Hans Backe said. ''De Rosario was the last piece for us.''
With Toronto picking up a major chunk of the midfielder's approximate $473,750 salary, the Red Bulls still have their third designated player slot available. But it is now unlikely they will pick up another high-priced star.
The way De Rosario played in his Red Bulls' debut, they may not need one.
Just two minutes into his playing career, De Rosario fed Richards from deep. The fast midfielder ran onto the ball in the box and blasted it past goalkeeper Tally Hall.
''I saw the space open up and I played the ball in,'' said De Rosario, who barely missed a goal of his own in the 86th minute. ''I know what kind of speed he has.''
The lead would not last, as Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul, making his first start, ventured too far off his line to challenge Cam Weaver, who replaced Dynamo captain Brian Ching when his injured left ribcage went into spasms late in the first half. Weaver tapped the ball over his head for the tying goal in the 50th minute for Houston (0-1-2).
''The response was perfect,'' Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. ''They've got good players, they can possess the ball, so to get that response gave us a lift.''
For all of De Rosario's creativity, the second-place Red Bulls (1-0-2) could not capitalize on a 16-shot, second-half deluge. They outshot last-place Houston 24-9 on the game, and to come away with just one goal - only their second of the season - left the Red Bulls perplexed.
''Nobody's looking for excuses here,'' Henry said after he failed to convert six shots. ''As I said last year, we'll only win if we play as a team. It doesn't matter who is on the team; if you don't play as a team, you won't win.''
De Rosario added: ''Obviously there's still more gelling to do, but I'm very pleased that we were able to create some good goal-scoring chances. So that's a positive.''