BY DAVE MARTINEZ
An impressive start to the US Open Cup has set the tone desired for the New York Red Bulls, and with the team slowly working their way back to health, it is a vibe they hope continues.
The Harrisburg City Islanders will be playing host to the Red Bulls this Tuesday at the Skyline Sports Complex. While the Red Bulls dominant victory against the Charleston Battery was impressive, Harrisburg’s tenacious showing in the third round was the talk of the tournament, taking the New England Revolution into overtime and falling behind 3-0 only to tie the game and win the match in penalty kicks.
New York is acutely aware of the victory, and plan to take the proper tone to advance to the quarterfinals.
“The Cup is very simple; it’s to win and go to the next round or lose and go out,” Red Bulls assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen explained. “Last year, it was a little bit difficult with us with the Gold Cup. We had a lot of players out and a lot of travel to the West coast during that time. This year, we take the Cup very serious of course and we want to go all the way.”
“We get a report on that team and we will prepare as we prepare for an MLS game, of course. We will go down there and it’s all about being professional and winning the game.”
Helping the drive to glory is a long awaited core of starters that have missed significant time with the club. Among them are Wilman Conde and Jan Gunnar Solli who both saw their first extended in-game action against the Battery last week.
“It was very good against Charleston for Wilman to get 90 minutes,” Halvorsen said. “Solli also got 70 minutes after his injuries, so they both came out of the game very well. We get most of the players back now.”
One man who was conspicuous in his absence was team captain, Thierry Henry. The striker returned to action against Chivas USA prior to the commencement of the tournament. Henry has been out of action since April 28th after picking up a hamstring injury against the New England Revolution. Though he was able to register 90 minutes in his return, he was kept out of the Charleston Battery match for precautionary reasons. This week’s clash against the City Islanders looks to be no different.
“Thierry (Henry), he still feels a little bit in his hamstring but he’s on the way back,” Halvorsen said. “Of course, he played against Chivas, but we will prepare that he will be back for the Chicago game, but we haven’t taken any decision about this game on Tuesday with him.”
Meanwhile, defender Stephen Keel, who has missed time with a stress fracture in his back, will be made available for the match.
Starters Dane Richards, Rafa Marquez, Roy Miller and Joel Lindpere continue to be unavailable due to international duties. Victor Palsson, who stayed with New York for the Battery fixture, is now headed to meet the Icelandic Under-23 National team as well.
No matter the losses to the roster, Halvorson is confident the team can succeed in the coming round. “It looks good,” he said. “We had a day off Thursday after a trip to Charleston. We look forward to go down there and, of course, try to win that game so we go to the next round.”