There was a much bigger picture throughout the Red Bulls' 5-0 win over Toronto.
New York bossed every facet of the evening, the visitors from up north resembling unwilling participants once Thierry Henry scored the match's opener in the 16th minute. Teemu Tainio and Dax McCarty, two diminutive wrecking balls blessed with the technique to ward off the often-derisive moniker of ‘destroyers’, propelled the Red Bulls forward while also tempering Toronto’s limited attacking verve.
Tainio and McCarty, despite TFC’s numerical advantage in the heart of the pitch, marshaled the match; the bantam duo constantly eluded the Canadians’ three central midfielders (Tony Tchani, Nathan Sturgis, and Mikael Yourassowsky), finding space to retain possession and in the process start attacks for the hosts.
"Teemu is a great player. He's been one of our best players so far," said Jan Gunnar Solli, who enjoyed an impressive night that included compiling two assists.
Tainio, the stouter of the tandem, anchored in front of the New York back-line and helped to extinguish TFC’s scant attacking movement. McCarty, recently acquired from D.C. United, illustrated why Hans Hans Backe and Erik Solér decided to part with Dwayne De Rosario. The sprightly redhead materialized in various positions between the Red Bull defense and frontline, nipping at the heels of adversaries and acting as an outlet for teammates.
“I think I said it when I was on the other side of it, the 4-0 loss at RFK: 'They (the Red Bulls) are one of the best teams in the league at keeping the ball,'" said McCarty about his new club. “It’s just a mentality that we are going to keep the ball, we’re going to keep possession, we’re going to dictate the game, especially at home. And so, for me, it’s how I like to play. That’s the type of player I am. Obviously with Teemu in there, he makes it easier for me.”
The two rarely, if ever, ceded the ball to the visitors, completing a combined 124 passes out of 141 attempted – good enough for an accuracy of 88%. Backe entered 2011 stating that the Red Bulls finally had the class to operate as a possession-oriented side. The Swede delivered on that promise; New York became arguably MLS’s best passing outfit, swiftly distributing in a way rarely seen in league history.
With the acquisition of De Rosario, New York sacrificed one holding midfielder to accommodate the five-time member of the MLS Best XI. The passing rhythm suffered. Saturday, however, with both Tainio and McCarty sitting relatively deep, New York controlled 65% of the possession.
The superior play in the middle of the park limited service to Toronto’s three-pronged attack of Joao Plata, Javier Martina, and Nick Soolsma, allowing NY’s beleaguered defense a straightforward 90 minutes. Tainio and McCarty’s work also facilitated the outstanding onslaught in front of goal that included strikes by Luke Rodgers, Joel Lindpere, and substitute Juan Agudelo’s second-half brace.
Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, Tainio will be unable to partake in the Atlantic Cup with D.C. on Saturday having received a caution – the Finn’s fifth of the season – for dissent. Both Backe and Solli believe that the timing of the brief suspension could be fortuitous as the veteran of Ajax and Tottenham will finally have the opportunity to heal from a groin injury.
"Perhaps it's OK," Backe said about Tainio’s yellow. "He felt problems before the game, halftime. So perhaps it is good for him to get the rest and get treatment and get ready for next week with his groin problems."
Backe will likely have to shuffle NY’s alignment without the invaluable Tainio, but McCarty is looking forward to the tilt against his former club even without his partner at central midfield. He stated that a lot of great friends were made during his brief tenure in the capital; yet, McCarty, D.C.’s captain at the start of the season, still wants to validate himself.
“After the whistle blows, it’s time to prove to them that maybe they made a mistake in letting me go.”
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