BY DAVE MARTINEZ
New York Red Bulls Head Coach Hans Backe is ready to take the US Open Cup seriously; that has been the message since before the start of the season. Now, all he wants is for US Soccer to do the same.
Last year’s disappointing 4-0 U.S. Open Cup loss to the Chicago Fire, which featured almost an entire reserve side and saw Backe skip the match, caused a backlash that has made this year’s tournament a focal point of the season. With pressure to succeed upon his shoulders, the USSF aren’t making things any easier for the Red Bulls from Backe’s point of view.
“The disappointment is U.S. Soccer,” Backe said. “Someone has to tell U.S. Soccer, if you want to take this serious, then don’t play on FIFA days. It’s simple as that. Then you have your whole roster available.”
“We are losing five guys because of that, five starters, so that is the problem.”
The New York Red Bulls will be without starters Rafa Marquez, Dane Richards, Joel Lindpere and Roy Miller. Victor Palsson, who was called up by Iceland, will be leaving to join his National side after the U.S. Open Cup match against the Charleston Battery this Tuesday.
To compound on these key losses, Thierry Henry may not make the trip either.
“No, probably not,” Backe said. “I haven’t decided but if he is not 100%, he will stay home.” The Red Bulls captain, who played the full 90 against Chivas USA this past Wednesday, is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Even though the losses are great, Backe feels he has enough players to keep the games competitive. “It’s four guys out, five with Teeemu Tainio for internationals. We will have a very decent first eleven starting, definitely,” he said.
Compensating for the loss of Henry may be the team’s greatest obstacle. Still, the coach feels he has a deep enough roster to ease his loss. “We have different options, but I will not single out anyone who can play up top with Kenny (Cooper), but we have options.”
On a positive note, Jan Gunnar Solli, Wilman Conde and Stephen Keel, all players who have been fighting back from injury, participated in full training this weekend, and look ready to rejoin the club.
“(Solli) did well today, seems to be fully fit so he will be involved, definitely available,” Backe revealed. “(Keel), also available. He did a session two days ago as well, but he will be definitely in the roster too. (Conde) will need his minutes so he will play.”
Even with that bit of good news to boost the club, Backe can’t help but lament the position he is in thanks to the scheduling of U.S. Soccer’s governing body.
“We will definitely take it serious; we want to win the Open Cup,” he said. “But of course, if you are five, six starters out, everyone has to learn and no roster in the world can handle that. It’s not American football that has 60 players, perhaps 40 on the same level.”