It was only the first full day of practice since Sunday’s stunning upset win against the Houston Dynamo, but the Red Bulls were still showing the fight and intensity in training that they showed in beating the two-time champions.
There is definitely an air of confidence around the group as it went through its paces at Montclair State on Wednesday. Some players were given rests, but most of the key players from Sunday’s victory were back on the field and training like a team ready to battle for a place in the MLS Cup final.
Here are some observations from today’s practice session:
Juan Pablo Angel, Luke Sassano and Andrew Boyens were held out of practice. While Angel and Sassano were being rested, Boyens was protecting a forearm injury that he isn’t expected to keep him out of Saturday’s Western Conference final.
Head coach Juan Carlos Osorio spent a long time after practice speaking with his three South American signings, Jorge Rojas, Juan Pietravallo and Gabriel Cichero. He spent extra time talking to Cichero, who could potentially be pressed into action if any of the team’s starting defenders were to get injured.
If the thought of Cichero playing sounds extremely scary to Red Bulls fans, it should. Here are some truly staggering stats for you. In games that Cichero hasn’t played in since he joined the Red Bulls, the team is 4-0-2 with 0.50 goals-against average (three goals allowed). In games that Cichero has played in, the Red Bulls are 3-5 with a 2.40 goals-against average (19 goals allowed). Yes, wow.
When asked to choose which of his saves against Houston on Sunday was his favorite, goalkeeper Danny Cepero pointed to a finger-tip stop on a Stuart Holden blast. As for the memorable kick save he made, Cepero admitted that he just stuck his leg out and prayed, "please let it hit my leg."
If you were hoping that the running war of words between Real Salt Lake midfielder Dema Kovalenko and Osorio would continue this week, don’t bet on it. Well, don’t expect Osorio to play along. When asked about the former Red Bulls player who he traded away last off-season, Osorio simply stated, "He’s a good player." Stay tuned for Kovalenko’s latest later this week.
While he might not be happy to see Osorio when the Red Bulls travel to Salt Lake City, Kovalenko will be greeting some close friends from the team he played for last year in former roommates Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Dane Richards and Danny Cepero.
If the Red Bulls were surprised by the number of fans that made the trip to Houston for Sunday’s game (a traveling party of around 25), they could be in for similar treat on Saturday as close to 30 Red Bulls fans are expected to make the trip to Salt Lake City for Saturday’s West final. The Red Bulls will be providing traveling fans with free tickets to the match.
One person who was recently spotted at the Red Bulls practice facility is suspended goalkeeper Jon Conway, who can’t train with the team but is free to use the team’s facilities. He has yet to speak publicly about his suspension for failing Major League Soccer’s performance-enhancing drug test, but is expected to discuss it after the season.
That’s all for now. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of the above notes in the comments section below.