By JUSTIN FERGUSON
When the New York Red Bulls visit Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in two days, it will be a special homecoming for Mike Petke, who spent more than three seasons as a member of the Colorado Rapids.
“I haven’t been there in a long time,” Petke said on Tuesday. “It will be good to get back, I still have a house and some friends there, be nice to see them around the game and yeah, Colorado is beautiful. I love going to Colorado, it’ll be fun.”
As a former Rapid, Petke played down the effect of Denver’s elevation on his squad ahead of the Thursday match.
“I mean, listen, I know it’s a nice storyline, but the altitude’s altitude, you know?” Petke said. “Everybody has to deal with it. Does it change the way we want to play? Not necessarily. Does it change the way we’ll approach the game? Perhaps a little bit, but it’s not something we’re putting into the players minds, so it’s not something that we’re severely altering what we want to do.”
Midfielder Tim Cahill echoed his head coach when he was asked about any altitude issues he and his teammates may face Thursday.
“If people start blowing up at 70 minutes then there’s players on the bench who can take their spot, you know?” Cahill said. “We got fit boys on this team. You know fitness I think is a key in this league, every team you play is exceptionally fit. All the boys really take care of themselves, and if you’re not up to scratch, you’ll definitely get found out.”
BUILDING OFF THE VICTORY OVER HOUSTON
Coming off the heels of a 2-0 victory over Houston on Sunday, the Red Bulls are looking to provide another complete team effort against Colorado on Thursday.
“The biggest thing that we need to do is go back to not conceding goals and to be compact and disciplined,” Cahill said. “Even though that I played a lot deeper on the weekend, and me and Dax (McCarty) held a really tight line close to the two defenders, it felt safe and that’s the way it’s got to be every game.
“In the end, we’ll get our chances to break forward, but you don’t need to when Espy (Fabian Espindola) finishes, and Titi (Thierry Henry) is playing, and Jonny (Steele) and the boys are doing well all over the park.”
Forward Thierry Henry said he is glad to see a better overall effort from the forwards, especially Fabian Espindola. The 28-year-old Argentinian snapped a league scoring drought stretching back to April 20 on Sunday with his goal at the hour mark.
“I mean I think (Espindola) needed it, but like I said after the game, he is creating a lot for us, he’s moving a lot, he’s fighting, he’s available,” Henry said. “But yeah…it was important for us to see Espindola scoring, but also Jonny, it is important that Jonny scores, or whoever.”
PETKE ADDRESSES CLUB’S FOURTH OF JULY WOES
The Red Bulls are 1-8-2 all-time on the Fourth of July, and although Petke cannot put his finger on the reason for the club’s Independence Day woes, he wants to see a change in fortunes this Thursday.
Although he does not think the elevation will be as big of a factor, Petke knows what kind of crowd will be at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on the 4th of July.
“I know I’ve been, played in Colorado many times with New York, whether it’s the MetroStars or the Red Bulls,” Petke said. “It’s a tough place to play, you know, they always get a sell out crowd on 4th of July. You know it pumps the players up, for whatever reason, but we’re looking to change that obviously for Thursday.”
JUNINHO TO MISS RAPIDS CLASH
Petke also confirmed on Tuesday that Brazilian midfielder Juninho will miss the match vs. Colorado because he is tending to personal matters.