Preseason in Mexico:Day 12
While there was obvious disappointment in the locker room after the Red Bulls gave up a two-goal lead to fall, 3-2, to Chivas de Guadalajara in the squad’s first loss of the 2011 preseason, fans and spectators alike saw a team that exhibited some quality soccer, especially in the first 45 minutes.
In the first half, the Red Bulls dominated possession and play, creating a variety of different scoring opportunities while staying organized in the back. Because of this, head coach Hans Backe could take some solace in the team’s general performance.
“When we create that number of chances, it’s what you want,” Backe said. “Solid defense and be ready for the counter, the breaks, and we had some chances to score more in the first half. But, being two-up away like this, you have to be satisfied.”
With the defense holding strong, the Red Bulls looked to attack and midfielder Dane Richards particularly was effective, using his speed and his ability to generate space along the right wing. After harassing left back Jairo Gonzalez on a few occasions, it was not a surprise that the Jamaican was involved in the first goal when Marquez found him with a stellar 45-yard long ball. Richards sped through the wing and his strike in the upper corner of the net flashed back to his form in the second half of last year, when he scored five goals in the team’s last seven games.
While many offensive attacks stem from attacking players farther up the pitch, Marquez, who was moved to centerback by Backe last week, had his ability to find his teammates on full display, spraying balls all over the field – including on Richards’ goal.
“It’s huge. It helps us out so much,” said forward Juan Agudelo, who headed in the second goal off a Richards feed. “Tim Ream has those abilities also, but when Rafa comes out of the back, he has so much confidence on his long balls and it’s almost like having a centerback playmaker. It helps out the whole team to spread to game. It’s perfect for us.”
During the second portion of the first half, the Red Bulls were able to keep the ball against their technically sound counterparts, giving a glimpse of the possession-style soccer that Backe wants to instill in his side.
“The first half, it was fun playing with the guys. We were just playing one, two touch and (Thierry) Henry was checking back, and we were playing together. At one point, the crowd was on our side,” said Agudelo, noting the “Ole” chants from the Chivas fans after the Red Bulls went two-up. “But, we just have to keep that the whole game.”
Despite the positives, Agudelo’s last statement summarized the team’s stinging sentiments as they departed Omnilife Stadium on the wrong side of the scoreline.
“We were getting a lot of chances, but we didn’t finish them,” Richards said. “We should have put the game away, go 3-0 up, but we scored some and we missed some. They got a goal, got the momentum and got the crowd in the game and that led to the victory.”
- Backe and Agudelo, who called him the “best player today,” were full of praise for the Jamaican: “He seems to be at the same level as he finished the last season,” Backe said. “Of course, he’s a little bit further than the other guys because of his games with Jamaica but he looks like he has taken the next step, definitely, because he’s more comfortable on the ball, he scores, he sets up goals, so he looks very good at the moment.”
- Red Bulls trialist Teemu Tainio got his first game action Tuesday, playing the first 45 minutes at right back. Backe said that the Ajax Amsterdam midfielder/defender had “Overall, a very solid game,” especially considering the fact that he had not played in a full match since December due to a minor injury and lack of playing time.
- The team returned home on Wednesday after being away since Feb. 4. The players are expected to have sessions Thursday and Friday before taking the weekend off. The Red Bulls depart for their second trip on Monday, Feb. 21 for Ft. Lauderdale, where they will have matches against the Chicago Fire and Miami FC.
Statistic of the Day:
12 – The length of Backe’s unbeaten streak all-time in preseason competition before last night’s loss to Chivas. Since taking the helm in New York, Backe went 9-0-3.