Red Bulls prepare for "outstanding" LA

Backe: Too early to say if Saturday tilt is statement game

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Following a match that head coach Hans Backe termed as “key” for the team, the New York Red Bulls returned to the practice field on Thursday morning for a light training session. All of the starters from the 1-0 win over Eastern Conference rival Toronto FC participated in regeneration ahead of Saturday’s clash-of-the-coasts match against the LA Galaxy.

The Red Bulls won the physical, hard-fought contest without four prominent players. Goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, new signing Rafa Márquez, defender Roy Miller and midfielder Dane Richards were each absent due to national-team call-ups. All four came through their international matches fine and Backe said he anticipates all the players will rejoin the team sometime on Thursday.

Backe expects Coundoul to return in goal, but the coach said he will evaluate the others after seeing them at Friday’s training session.

New York are amid a crowded fixture schedule at the moment. Saturday will be their third game in a six-day stretch. The win over Toronto put some distance between RBNY and third-place TFC in the conference, but the high-profile LA match holds a great deal of importance.

“This is a great game for us to play against a team that has been outstanding,” Backe told the media on Thursday morning. “It is too early to say if it is a statement game, but it is a great game.”

Henry On Skates

Thierry Henry answered questions from the media after Thursday’s training session wearing sneakers bearing the logo of the NHL’s New York Rangers. The Frenchman said he likes all sports, but he’s not a hockey fan. Reebok supplied him with the shoe for running purposes, and he said Long Island native Carlos Mendes, an Islanders fan, gave him some stick about the footwear. … Henry is known for being a big fan of basketball and American football. When asked by MLSsoccer.com what position he’d play in either one of those sports, he responded quickly. “Me? I’d be on the bench,” Henry said. “I’m not going to pretend. I’d be on the bench.”

Practice Notes

Mainly reserves practiced on Thursday morning, participating in a small-sided scrimmage and then ending practice with finishing work. … Rookie Austin da Luz, who made the game-day roster on Wednesday night for the first time all season, looked very sharp on the ball. … All three second-half subs from Wednesday’s game—Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Salou Ibrahim and Carl Robinson—trained fully. … Ibrahim spent time after practice, by himself, working on fitness. … Young forward Juan Agudelo had some crack finishing in drills to end practice.

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012