RBNY practice report: Prepping for playoffs

Tough weekend tie with RSL has team feeling tested for postseason

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The Red Bulls, first place in the Eastern Conference following last Saturday’s scoreless draw, returned to their practice facility at Montclair State University on Monday morning flush with confidence.

The tie against Real Salt Lake was crucial for the mindset of the club, who played poorly last month in a 1-0 road loss to the MLS Cup holders.

“I think it was a good game for us — a good and even game,” midfielder Joel Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “I think maybe we face this team in the playoffs again and we can remember this match. It was overall very even."

WATCH: Full match highlights

“A match like that, against a good opponent, it can only help prepare you,” Lindpere added. “It gets you ready for what the playoffs will be like.”

Physical Play

After the match, midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy praised the Red Bulls for being unafraid to get mixed up and “stuck in” with Real Salt Lake. New York had 13 fouls in the match, one of their higher whistle totals of the year.

For head coach Hans Backe, the more brash style of play is quite all right.

“I hope we looked like a more physical midfield,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “I think sometimes this year, we’ve been the ones who have been on the other side of that physical play.”

Agudelo Debuts

Academy product Juan Agudelo made his first-team debut on Saturday, coming in as a second-half substitute. It's clear Backe wants to begin grooming the player for perhaps a larger role next year, but don’t discount Agudelo seeing some more minutes in the regular season – and the playoffs.

Backe liked Agudelo’s pace and fearless play on Saturday in his short run out with the team.

“He started fantastic — a great first pass,” Backe said. “Then a great, great cross to Juan Pablo [Ángel] that could have been a goal.”

Quick Kicks

Defender Chris Albright did not train Monday and probably won’t see the practice field until Thursday. Backe said that the right back suffered a “soft concussion” in Saturday’s match. … Defender Carey Talley did more fitness work today and should see some of the pitch on Tuesday at training — “perhaps 50 percent of the session,” Backe said. …

Dane Richards scored a penalty kick goal for Jamaica this past weekend, drawing a wry smile from Backe’s lips. “That might in fact be something to look into,” Backe said with a laugh. …

Red Bulls fan Thomas Fraehmke is helping the ALS Hope Foundation host a KICK ALS! Fun Day at PPL Park prior to New York's game at Philadelphia on Saturday. The event includes a tailgate party, and proceeds will help the ALS Hope Foundation continue research and patient care at the MDA/ALS Center of Hope at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philly.

Researchers around the world are investigating a possible link between soccer and ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). Fraehmke recently arranged a similar event at Red Bull Arena. More information can be found at www.alshopefoundation.org, www.kickals.org or on Facebook groups ALS Hope Foundation or KICK ALS!

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