UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The pressure is building on the New York Red Bulls after a 4-1 midweek loss to Colorado Rapids, and it’s not about to get any easier.
Up next for New York is a matchup against one of the best teams in the league in FC Dallas on Saturday (6 pm ET, Galavisión), a game striker Juan Agudelo calls “probably the biggest of the season.”
FC Dallas head into the match winners of five of their last seven games and in third place in the Western Conference. Their 38 points thus far, however, would put them seven points clear of the pack if they played in the Eastern Conference.
“Right now, the best team in the league,” Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry said of FC Dallas. “For me, right now, they’ve got the best team.”
It should be a challenge for New York both on the pitch and off the pitch. Mentally, the Red Bulls must rebound from the tough road loss and their recent dip in form. On the field, they face a FC Dallas side that holds the ball well and has been playing well defensively as a unit.
It isn’t exactly the ideal bounce-back game for a team in need of a win.
“One of probably the three hottest teams in the league with LA and Seattle,” head coach Hans Backe said. “It should be a statement game for us.”
The Red Bulls will need to control Brek Shea, who scored one of the top goals of the season midweek at BMO Field in a 1-0 win at Toronto. Backe called Shea “just another player,” but Henry knows to be wary of the talented FC Dallas attacker.
“The guy is amazing right now,” Henry said. “He can take the ball by whoever he wants.”
There is some ambiguity over whether or not the Red Bulls contacted recently signed goalkeeper Frank Rost before the season even started. Backe told media on Friday they didn’t, sticking with the duo of Bouna Coundoul or Greg Sutton in net after a solid defensive year for the club in 2010.
Rost’s statements on the courtship, however, differed a bit.
“I know [Red Bulls sporting director Erik Solér] for 10 years, so he called me a half-year ago,” Rost said. “The last call was a month ago: ‘Come to us, we need a goalkeeper.’ I talked with family, they said, ‘OK, do that.’”
Out since suffering a hamstring injury in the Gold Cup final late last month, defender Rafa Márquez is set for a return Saturday. The Mexican national team captain trained with the team for the first time on Friday at Montclair State University.
“I think he should be okay for 90,” Backe said.
Defensive midfielder Teemu Tainio, meanwhile, is questionable for the game against FC Dallas.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer