UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The Red Bulls have more to worry about than exacting revenge on Saturday.
Last month in Utah, the Red Bulls dropped a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake as the defending MLS Cup champions used a dominating midfield to run over New York for long stretches of the match.
On Saturday afternoon, the Red Bulls have a chance to even the score even though they admit revenge isn’t on their minds.
“I don’t think that way, that it’s revenge when you play 30 games in a season,” head coach Hans Backe said.
The Red Bulls will be missing two key players for the fixture. Goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul and midfielder Dane Richards are both away with their national teams.
Richards' absence could hurt the most as he's enjoying some of the best form of his career right now, having tallied four goals in his last five league games.
Backe was coy about how he would replace Richards’ production on the right flank.
Earlier in the year, it may have been as simple as pushing right back Jeremy Hall to the wing position, but Hall is still working his way back to fitness following a right quad strain.
“There are at least three options for how to play the right,” Backe said, refusing to divulge more details.
Earlier this week, Backe ruled out midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy as a replacement for Richards along the flank.
[inline_node:319620]The return of Rafa Márquez from injury will certainly help New York's chances at Red Bull Arena. In the September road loss, the Red Bulls were without Márquez, who was away captaining the Mexican national team.
As the controlling force in the midfield, Márquez's absence was notable in the last match against RSL as no one on the Red Bulls stepped up to possess the ball with any real purpose.
After the loss a month ago, Backe is aware of Real Salt Lake’s strong midfield.
“The midfield they have is very well balanced,” Backe said.
Backe views Saturday's match as one in which his team can test itself against a side that has been near the top of the league for much of the season. It’s a match-up that rookie Tony Tchani is eager to see unfold.
“Against the MLS Cup champions, a team that has played well this year, it is really good to see how we do," Tchani told MLSsoccer.com.
Irving Garcia continued to do fitness work, his most extensive conditioning to date as he ran for almost the entirety of the team’s Thursday training session … Carey Talley continues to recover from a hamstring injury but remains doubtful for Saturday afternoon. He has yet to step on the pitch since injuring his hamstring two weeks ago in Los Angeles … Thierry Henry said all systems are a go for Saturday following a knee injury the forward picked up two weeks ago. Most recently, Henry went 74 minutes against Kansas City last weekend and felt fine. “I didn’t feel anything bad in the game,” Henry said … Backe said that Seth Stammler is available to the club if injuries occurred, but he isn’t calling on the player quite yet as he’s letting Stammler focus on graduate school. Backe said that Stammler has a conditioning program to follow while he’s away with his studies and that twice a week the midfielder trains with a local high school team.