By FRANCO PANIZO
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – The New York Red Bulls concluded their week-long preseason camp in South Florida on Saturday afternoon, and they did so with a convincing win.
The Red Bulls defeated the newly-renamed Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, 2-0, at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday afternoon through goals from Thierry Henry and Mehdi Ballouchy.
The performance against the Strikers was an improved one from the Red Bulls' game against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, and head coach Hans Backe was impressed.
"For the first time in friendlies I think we created more chances than we have before in the first half," said Backe. "So we created enough in the first half, but I think we just need to work with the attitude to go for the second goal, third goal, try to kill the games."
One of those first half chances resulted in an early goal as Henry opened the scoring two minutes into the game. Ballouchy whipped in a cross from the right flank and poor defending allowed for the ball to reach Henry, who tapped it in from close range.
"It was huge because it took off a little bit of pressure because the last game we tied and we wanted to get a win while we were here in Florida," said Juan Agudelo, who came off the bench at halftime. "With that good of a start, it just relaxed every body else and we were able to play the soccer that we normally play."
New York dictated much of how the game went, but that didn't stop the Strikers from having impressing moments in front of a crowd of about three thousand in Fort Lauderdale.
Led by former U.S. U-20 midfielder Bryan Arguez, the Strikers managed to, at times, keep possession against a talented New York team expected to be amongst the Eastern Conference favorites this MLS season.
That didn't bother Backe, who felt his team's cleansheet sufficed for the preseason occasion.
""I think we allowed them to one chance during 90 minutes, so the defense is progressing all the time," said Backe.
The defense's effort and Ballouchy helped seal the game for the Red Bulls. Ballouchy put the game out of reach in the 75th minute, dribbling by a pair of defenders before slotting home a low shot to the far post.
The goal made sure New York defeated its second-division opponent, but that it took until the 75th minute to put the Strikers away also reminded the Red Bulls that work still needs to be done if they hope to have a successful MLS campaign.
"This is just a preparation game," said Rafael Marquez. "We still have to keep working. We still have areas where we need to get better at."
New York Red Bulls' lineup: Greg Sutton (Bouna Coundoul 46′); Roy Miller (Danleigh Borman 46'), Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez (Carlos Mendes 46′), Teemu Tainio (Chris Albright 63′); Joel Lindpere, Mehdi Ballouchy, Tony Tchani (Carl Robinson 73′), Jan Gunnar Solli (Juan Agudelo 46′); Dane Richards, Thierry Henry .