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Red Bulls continue to search for answers

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Last week’s loss to FC Dallas forced New York Red Bull’s head coach Hans Backe to tinker with his lineup.  Facing a difficult challenge against Real Salt Lake, New York changed their formation, tactic, and personnel in an attempt to steal points on the road.  Even with the alterations and overhauls, the result was frighteningly familiar. 

 ”It’s very frustrating,” Backe told the media after the match.  “I mean, we played a very good first half, defended very well, got some breaks.  (RSL) didn’t create any chances.” 

Having fallen behind to FC Dallas early in their season opener, and recognizing the same issues haunted previous results against Salt Lake, New York molded themselves in a preventive tactic to assure history would not repeat itself.  “We’re looking back at all the games we had; we have never won against Salt Lake, and we have almost (always) gone down the first fifteen minutes one or two nil,” Backe observed. “Now we said we just need to have a clean sheet the first 15 minutes and start well and hope that the game can open up.”

Indeed, they succeeded in shutting down RSL early, but the game never really opened up for them.

New York lined up in a 4-5-1, featuring a defensive minded midfield triangle of Teemu Tainio, Dax McCarty and Victor Palsson, who earned his first start with the team.  The formation disrupted Salt Lake early, but did very little to generate an attack.  As the match settled, Salt Lake began to probe New York’s midfield and defense, searching for areas to exploit.  By the 39th minute, a rare Red Bull attack yielded a Salt Lake counter which properly exposed the Red Bull’s backline en route to their first goal of the match.

“The way they scored their goal – our back four were way too high and we basically tried to put them offside,” defender Jan Gunnar Solli said.  Fellow defender Stephen Keel agreed.  “We were able to neutralize what they wanted to do and we were also able to counter that by switching the field quickly.  It’s just one mental breakdown and they punish you.”

 ”Problem for us in the first half is that we gave away in the middle of the park five breaks,” the coach lamented.  “That was just sloppy passing which cost us one goal and then we gambled on an offside which cost us a second one.”

Down by two, New York managed to string together a good sequence of possession and attack, but it was too little, too late.    Though they controlled the ball for a good portion of the match, they did little to threaten a superior RSL side.

“It looked very good, but you can’t make these unforced errors against good teams.  They will kill you,” Backe said.  “And we had five in the first half – not under pressure, sloppy passing – it’s the difference between the teams.”

Keel agreed.  “If you look at the four goals we’ve conceded (this season), it’s just mental lapses, a couple of (bad) decision making here and there,” the defender noted.  “You clean those up, and we’re ok.  It’s about being focused and being switched on for 90 minutes.”

Even with the changes in the tactical approach of the team, the match felt substantively recognizable. Overall, New York lacked creativity in the attacking third, consistency in the midfield and stability on the backline.  A pair of mental errors once again sunk their chances and the team earned their second defeat in as many games.

Coach Backe saw a silver lining amidst the chaos.  “A good sign was the way we responded after going down two nil, and we controlled the game, dictated the game, created a couple of chances – that’s a good sign and credit to the players for the way they responded after going down,” he said.  “It’s by far our best game against Salt Lake in two years.”

Whether that assertion is right or wrong is debatable.  New York’s identity crisis, however, remains a stark reality as they head into their home opener against an undefeated Colorado Rapids side.


  1. Who is the only MLS team to make to a NA Champion’s final? RSL. Irrelevant? Try more relevant than nearly all other teams in the MLS. In fact, many of the smaller market teams in the MLS have paid consultants to copy RSL’s formula. I don’t see how a team that has been in the top three for four years is anything by relevant.

  2. Wow. That’s pretty interesting. What’s up with Rangers now anyway? Would this prevent Bocanegra from playing in Europe next year?

  3. For starters, Kreis? The guy is amazing. I don’t need to defend him. His stats on the pitch and off speak for themselves. And Utah culturally lacking? If you only knew. Sundance is where? Moab is where? We aren’t NYC but we hold our own for a state of only two million.
    And as for the cult…We do chant in unison. IF YOU BELIEVE THEN JUST STAND UP ON YOUR FEET AND SHOUT IT LOUD REAL!

  4. I’ve been a Backe supporter ever since he gave the team an organized, possession-focused identity in his first year. But his performance since then has raised serious doubts. He was *unaware* of the Gold Cup. He tanked the Open Cup. And he never figured out how to right the ship. I give Soler the bulk of the blame, however, although it’s hard to know how big a role Backe plays in personnel decisions. Is Palsson any better than any number of young midfielders? Is Miller the best we can do at left back? I say give this bunch until June. Let’s see how the team looks with Conde and Marquez and (let’s hope) Rodgers. If this nonsense continues, then pull the plug.

  5. +1. Soler and Backe continue to be the biggest fraud in professional soccer. Largest budget in the league, biggest underachievers in the history of MLS. Trading MVP DeRo (wow our midfield looks steady now!), not even attending the MLS combine (why would they? they have an aging and/or very average Scandanavian player that they can bring in on short notice any time!), clearing the bench of any knowledgeable asst coaches with understanding of the league, wasting DPs on retired goalies, being caught time and again unprepared on the field….there’s only so many times you can point to players or a simple breakdown in the backline. This team stinks and it has always started at the top. We’ll be lucky to have 10k at the home opener. Why would fans pay to watch this disaster?

  6. Hire an American coach with some grit to take control. Henry has to be a leader and stop throwing his hands up every time he does not get the ball.

    This team reminds me a lot of the early stages of Beckham Galaxy era. Once they decide to start gelling, the sky is the limit. It is all mental for them. I think a new coach is a fresh new start.

  7. If I were one of the greatest stickers of my generation fresh off a loan with Arsenal only to come cam to this I’d b*tch too. I promise you this is not what he signed up for.

  8. You are absolutely right. Soler and Backe have hand picked the players from the lower levels of Scandinavian football to compete for MLS Cup. These guys are clueless. This team is not loaded with talent as some would say. I am sick and tired of watching our so-called number 10 Ballouchy do nothing but play back passes or square balls in the middle of the park. This is why Henry comes back to play in the midfield. Anyway, I could go on much longer, but I won’t. My only hope is that they lose their first 5 games and management fires the Swedish meatball and his Norwegian cousin.

  9. Before I become a Cosmos fan….

    Dane Richards: how can he be so fast with such feet of concrete? He’s terrible, and he always has been. Please leave him off the roster.
    Dax Mccarthy: An excellent addition to your rec league. Not a professional soccer player at all. Leave him off.

    Roy Miller: Costa Rica wins a qualifying game and the guy thinks he’s Ashley Cole. He’s not. I’d say leave him off, but who will replace him? At least Albright is gone. And Ream leaves a huge hole.

    Lindpere: Please come back. Backe, find a way to use him properly.

    Cooper: Must play.

    As for the third DP: Please NO tired Eurostars. NO Michael Ballack on 35-year-old legs. How about a strong Concacaf midfielder? Any US U-23 midfielders available?

    I’ve never been part of the fire Backe group. I’ve met the guy, and he’s very forthcoming and likable. But…I’m having my doubts.

  10. Soon to be 0-3? Wasted all of your money? Calm down man, it’s the beginning of the season. Let some things play out

  11. I’m pissed, bitter and clinging to all we’ve got: the fact that NYC is the alleged center of the world. Our team sucks. Our coach is awful. And Henry is being wasted: such a class act with crap around him. And that Team is the star thing is annoyingly Dr. Phil/Deepak Chopra to me. We’re 0-2, soon to be 0-3. And there’s no end in site!!!!! And I just wasted $1500 on season tix. Sorry for ripping on Utah…it’s not a flyover state…a plane might actually have to stop there to fuel up or something.

  12. somebody’s bitter…Way to stoop to personal attacks. I would actually take Henry if he would take a pay cut. The guys has been a class act and lethal player his entire career. It would never happen obviously but don’t get mad at Utah because your “culturally rich” city can’t make the necessary changes to their squad to live up to their own lofty expectations. The team don’t need to be the star in order to be successful, but the red bulls do need to do some serious soul-searching if they want to inherit their god-given position on top of the trash pile that is the rest of the MLS clubs, *sarcasm*(as if you couldn’t tell).

  13. Yeah, man, as Leader Kreis tells us in our hourly lessons, “The Team Is The Star.”. So perfect that a cult-like religion like this is flourishing in Utah. Keep your silverware…in your lonely, giant culturally devoid fly over state.

  14. to a hardcore soccer fan they arent. To the rest of the world they are irrelevant…sorry dude.
    They probably are the best team in the MLS as well and they get no pub so what does that tell you?

  15. “who cares about them? title or no title. they’re irrelevant.”
    WOW Maybe one of the dumbest statements ever written on any message board anywhere!!! That covers a lot of comments! No stars would come here…. er er I’m an idiot and think the game is about publicity. NO!! the game is about hardware and victories and playing it with skill and class.

    Sorry, I never post, but this one was way too stupid not to respond!!

  16. Ironic how Kris Boyd is a bigger celebrity in Portland than he would be in any other market. They absolutely love him there. I wonder how the ‘big fish / small pond’ effect might influence other Euros?

  17. At what point does Hans Backe get the boot? I don’t follow the Red Bulls much, but I have to assume there have been rumblings of extreme discontent.

  18. LA, NY, Seattle, Houston, Chicago, DC, Dallas & SJ are the big markets. Euro stars wouldnt consider going to the other teams. Boyd was an exception.


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