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Red Bulls draw with Atlas in final major test before MLS regular season


Photo by Jose M. Romero


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Maybe now, with 11 days left until the MLS regular season opener against the Seattle Sounders, wasn't the time for the New York Red Bulls to be tinkering with their lineup.

Coach Hans Backe had to do so, however, out of necessity Tuesday night against Atlas of Mexico's First Division at University of Phoenix Stadium. Down two forwards (Luke Rodgers and Juan Agudelo are out with injuries), Backe paired Salou Ibrahim with Thierry Henry up top in NYRB's last big preseason match of 2011. 

The two had their moments. Henry had most of them in the 1-1 draw.

The veteran striker was active and was constantly looking to set up teammates. He and Ibrahim almost teamed up for a goal in the 61st minute when Henry's through-ball was perfectly placed to Ibrahim, who split two defenders but had his shot saved.

"For me it's not a big deal," Henry said of working with different forwards. "We have to think about the organization of the team and how we're going to get possession of the ball. It's not easy because we have a lot of injured guys, but we're trying to find someone to play forward. That's how it goes."

New York got a good look at what could be its starting 11 to open the season. New defensive midfielder Teemu Tainio was tested early and took a hit that required a bandage but played tough. Dane Richards, a center mid in the lineup, spent a lot of time up top and when working together with Henry and substitute Tony Tchani, caused Atlas some problems defending them. Rafael Marquez and Tim Ream were solid at center back, Ream unable to stop a counter that resulted in Atlas' goal by Edgar Pacheco in the 78th minute.

"We're still playing a 4-4-2 but Coach has gone with kind of a diamond formation instead of a flat 4-4-2," Ream said when asked what is different about this season's Red Bulls. "Having Rafa at center back next to me, personally for me that's the two biggest things."

If Agudelo and Rodgers are still not fully ready to go and Ibrahim is deemed not the answer, Richards made a good case to play forward Tuesday. He made opportunities for himself to score in the 66th and 73rd minutes. 

Just when it seemed Atlas was going to reward the crowd of 23,644 — most there to see the Mexican club in action — with a win, feisty midfielder Joel Lindpere was taken down just inside the box for a penalty. Marquez, the star attraction of the night playing against the club where the Mexican national team veteran began his pro career, took the PK and beat goalkeeper Jose Canales in the 89th minute to force the draw.

"Second half, we totally controlled the progression, then they got their first shot on goal that was own goal (deflection)," Backe said. "But we responded very well.

"We look fitness-wise where we should be," Backe added. "I'm pretty happy so far. We have picked up some injuries in the last camp. I hope it will be the peak of the injuries."

Another player Backe might have paid close attention to was center midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, who didn't make much happen in terms of creating. Right back Carlos Mendes also struggled though he played all 90 minutes and Atlas attacked his side much more often then the left. But Ballouchy did prevent a goal on a shot by Alfredo Tahuilan of Atlas early in the second half.

"Every season I come in, I never had a spot on the table for me," Ballouchy said. "I've had to work hard in my life to have everything… nothing was handed to me. Every season I come in and I try to come in as fit as possible and I work as hard as possible. And I love competition. That's one thing that's keeping me very humble."


  1. Agree this is the best lineup if Solli can handle the playmaker spot. Lindpere is so slow on the wing though. Tchani has to be in befor Ballouchy….even if that means Right Midfield…Tchani can also fill in as the playmaker.

  2. he doesnt look a lik a “european player” lik hes suppose to be im sure soler immediately regrets him n nielsen who im assuming well jus be cut

  3. yeh when backe says any thing about injuries he says it so weirdly he jus goes agudelo out 5 to 6 days problly not playin in opener i dont get it then he goes rodgers is healthy jus needs to get fit ok then y isnt he playing against atlas? idont kno i dont get it must be a european manager thing

  4. The buzz that young Agudelo has created would draw me to RB Arena on opening night. (I am going anyway of course) I agree that these aren’t marquee names but I still would like to know where we stand for next weekend as far as player availability or at least their current status.

  5. For certain there are guys on the roster who sell tickets, but they aren’t Solli, Agudelo and Rodgers. They’d be coy with an injury to Rafa or Titi, but none of the three you mentioned.

  6. Solli is the playmaker. If he and Agudelo are healthy for opening night I think we’ll see Tainio at right back, Tchani at the base of the diamond with Solli in front of him, Dane on the right wing and Agudelo up top with Titi.

  7. I am guessing because they do not want to deter fans from buying tickets that RBNY are being coy with these injuries. For how long will Solli, Agudelo, and Rodgers be out? I have yet to get a solid answer on Solli, Agudelo is a “maybe” for opening match, and Rodgers seems out for a couple of weeks more, but nothing definitive. We need Agudelo!!! Ibrahim has some skill but too slow. I thought we looked classy last night up until the final 3rd. Our quick, sharp passing is up there with any club in MLS. This season will be special, and with the European flair that we possess, we as fans will be treated to some classy football!

  8. He played the night before against Dallas when the Red Bulls played most of their reserves, so I guess they rested him.

  9. It was tough to go from the replay of Barcelona / Arsenal mainly because of the announcers.

    I did not watch much of this match but was very pleased to see Henry go in for a hard tackle and get a yellow card a few mintues after he was fouled.

  10. Where was Jan Gunnar Solli last night? I watched the second half. It amazes me how often Richards and Tchani give the ball away…really killed some good movements.

  11. According to and the ESPN web site ESPN is showing college wrestling on 3/19 at 7:30pm and the deuce is showing women’s basketball…

  12. Seems like a nice result against a team that is already well into its regular season. Did Atlas play their first-stringers?

  13. Ironbound is a Newark neighborhood within walking distance of Red Bull Arena that has a large Brazilian and Portuguese immigrant population.

  14. Slightly off-topic but does anybody know if the Red Bulls – Sounders game will be on TV? Doesn’t show on the MSG schedule 🙁

  15. Maybe not a “play maker” but Adriano just became a free agent.. Could be the striker they’re looking for.

    Good way to connect the Ironbound’s Brazilian community to the Red Bulls..

  16. The Red Bulls ended last season needing to find a replacement for Angel, a playmaker and defensive depth and those three needs appear to still exist.

    The Red Bulls haven’t had a regularly successful playmaker since Guevara left (and even back then Guevara had some years where he was inconsistent and/or erratic). That said, the Red Bulls have tried a number of players in that role, such as departed players like Rojas and Ubiparapovic and current players Lindpere, Ballouchy and Solli; they’ve decided to play this long without acquiring a proven one and perhaps will continue to do so even though I agree with the response above that the Red Bulls need a playmaker. Playmakers like Morales, Ferreira and Schelotto, who has now left MLS, helped make RSL, FCD and Columbus respectively among the more successful teams of late.

    Once Solli is healthy, hopefully we can see how he plays center mid (if he is not forced to play right back). While Ballouchy can have good games, yesterday was not one of them. I hope Ballouchy can more consistently play well.

    I applaud Backe for using games like yesterday to experiment.

    Mendes had it tough in playing back-to-back games; he played fine, especially with that in mind, but didn’t see much of the ball. I hope Teemu Tainio can play right back and would have Tony Tchani as the d-mid.

    I hope Agudelo can recover from his groin injury and look forward to the day when Rodgers can show us why Backe acquired him.

    Bouna had another good game; despite the fact that he struggles with kicking the ball sometimes, I’ll take Bouna any day as the starting goalkeeper.

    Among field players, Henry, Marquez, Lindpere, Ream, Richards and Tchani will be the stalwarts for the club this season and hopefully all will remain healthy. That leaves one forward, the playmaker and the outside backs as the positions in need of stability. When Marquez and potentially Ream leave for the Gold Cup, the Red Bulls would be particularly vulnerable. It’s too bad the Red Bulls couldn’t move up in the draft and didn’t feel they could use their two highest picks on defenders in the MLS draft.

    Miller plays the left side well but can be beaten (ref. last game against San Jose; last night’s game). Is Borman making progress and can he challenge Miller more?

    I’m sure Soler and Backe will continue their excellent efforts to identify talent and fill the voids.


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