BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Oppressive heat, turnover in their roster, a cornucopia of injuries; what haven’t the Red Bulls fought through during this three game homestand?
Though New York clearly held the better of possession against Chicago, they struggled to find their rhythm with the conditions being what they were. The heat slowed both teams to a crawl. The trade of Dane Richards has and will continue to force New York to reestablish their midfield identity. Newcomers Sebastian Le Toux and Bill Gaudette played in only their second match with the club, trying to carve out their role with the team.
Save for a moment of individual brilliance off the foot of Thierry Henry, the outcome could have been very different.
“Of course, difficult conditions,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe admitted. “Overall after 90 minutes, I feel it was well deserved to win the game, but of course it could have went either way. The first time in a while we got a clean sheet and that is what we wanted from today’s game. And (we) scored the first goal. So perhaps you can say the players were a little bit scared of the heat. We could have gone forward from central midfield in the second half much quicker but the players chose to have a lot of possession. But I can understand it with this heat.”
Though New York has achieved success through it all, the worst isn't over. With most of the team’s starters going over 80 minutes twice over the course of four days, availability for Saturday’s matinee against the Philadelphia Union becomes a big question mark.
Wilman Conde re-aggravated his groin during the match and was subbed late in the game. Though he told reporters after the match that he felt fit enough to compete this Saturday, his recent battles with groin and other leg strains may indicate he is worse for wear than what he revealed. More will be known of his status in the days leading up to Saturday.
Meanwhile, Teemu Tainio is back in training, but nowhere near playing conditions. Rafa Marquez continues to be questionable after playing all of 20 minutes against the Sounders on Sunday, and fellow Designated Player Thierry Henry has worked through a 171 of a possible 180 minutes in grueling conditions.
Bottom line; though New York has managed to go 1-0-1 during this homestand, it is taking it’s toll on the team.
“At the end, I felt a bit stiff,” Henry explained. “I said to myself, we have another game. I didn’t play a lot recently in that heat, so maybe the last 5 minutes I didn’t want to pick up another injury and add another set back. It’s pretty important to stay fit.
“It’s a tricky one. The boss asked me if I wanted to play today and I said ya, I need to play regardless of the heat. I am in a situation now where I need minutes,” he continued. “To get better, you need minutes but you don’t want to burn yourself out there.
“Especially three games in a row. One is enough already. The game on Sunday, today, and the game on Saturday – we are going to have to stay inside, AC, drink a lot of water and perform against Philly, which is not an easy game.”
“We said before the game; there’s no idea just to talk about the heat or the way we’re playing,” Backe said. “It has to be smart decision-making and when you have the possession or when to move forward because if you lose the ball too quick, you will drop dead in 60 minutes in this heat.”