By DAVE MARTINEZ
Anyone who witnessed the New York Red Bulls exit the pitch after last week’s 1-1 draw against Chivas USA would have surely assumed they lost. Players gestured to team management as they walked back into their locker room. The team scurried out of sight as media awaited them at the door for a lengthy period of time. Team leaders Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez refused media requests.
The entire affair brought about much speculation, but as time dragged on, it seems the answer was right there in broad daylight.
"Everyone hoped to win the sixth game against Chivas," Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said, "And we had the chances to do it. That’s the way it is sometimes in football; it is not always logical."
New York was riding a five game winning streak and had the opportunity for a franchise-best sixth win in a row. The draw kept the team undefeated at home, but that wasn’t good enough for a side that was aiming at making club history.
"It was definitely disappointing," rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara noted. "Obviously we expect to score and win that game at the end. The five games we won, we had a couple breaks, the ball bounced our way a little bit. Sometimes you need that little bit of luck. For whatever reason, it wasn’t there the other night."
Asked why there was such disappointment, Meara gave a level response.
"I think it’s because we all know that we have a really good team and we can do something this year, make a good run at winning the MLS Cup. We are not happy when we settle for draws, especially at home. I think that kind of mentality will help us go a long way this year."
With Tuesday night's U.S. Open Cup clash against the Charleston Battery, the team hopes to leave the drama behind and continue with the workmanship that has carried them this far.
"We just need to take this serious now, and we do that," Backe noted. "We’re definitely playing the strongest team we can, and it’s my job just to get the guys ready for this game in the mindset.”
Backe announced he will be featuring at least eight of his regular starters, a far cry from the reserve team he sent for last year's Open Cup disaster against the Chicago Fire. Backe's squad won’t include Thierry Henry, whom despite playing 90 minutes against Chivas, is deemed not fit enough for this match after coming back from a hamstring injury last week. Even so, the team will be bolstered by the return of Stephen Keel, Jan Gunnar Solli and Wilman Conde.
“Things are definitely looking better for us this year," said Backe, whose club is 0-2 all-time against the Battery in Open Cup competition. "We have players available from injuries, their traveling schedule is good for us. We take it serious.
“I can’t say that after tying Chivas that we are set up to bounce back or anything, because I think we’ve done quite well in the last six to seven games. This is another tournament and we just take it from there.”
Meara, however, has a slightly different outlook.
"I think it’s everyone, from the staff to every single player; it’s frustrating when you don’t win, especially at home," Meara said. "Hopefully we can take some of that frustration and bring it in on Tuesday, put in a good performance and forget about the Chivas game."