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Squad similar, but these aren’t last year’s Red Bulls

All offseason, New York fans clamored for change and turnover for a team that, months before, had finished dead last in MLS.

The team that took the field on Saturday night’s 1-0 win over Chicago was very similar to the side that last year came close to setting the league mark for futility -- eight of 11 starters on the Red Bulls from this past weekend’s win were with the team last year.

But don’t mistake this New York team for last year’s. This group is feeling just a bit bull-ish, and even those who watched the dismal display of last year from the outside see just how much has changed inside the team.

“There’s a freshness about the place,” midfielder Carl Robinson told after training on Tuesday. The former Welsh international was acquired earlier this month in a trade from Toronto. “The spirit among the lads is fantastic.”

Seth Stammler noted the entire feel about this season is different than last year, and forward John Wolyniec was quick to praise the role that head coach Hans Backe has played in the renewed energy around the team. Last week, forward Juan Pablo Ángel cautioned that it sometimes can take several weeks or months for players to acclimate to a new team and settle into their surroundings. Not so for midfielder Joel Lindpere, who scored the team’s only goal on Saturday.

“It took me two weeks to study the team and then I felt like I’ve been here for awhile,” Lindpere said of his comfort on and off the field with New York.

Even head coach Hans Backe seems content with the players he has on the team right now, noting after Tuesday’s practice that only defenders Chris Albright and Kevin Goldthwaite remain shelved with injuries and that he has 23 players available in practice.

Robinson, he said, seems to have recovered from the injury he suffered in the friendly win over Santos and Seth Stammler appears poised to be fully fit following a hamstring injury. There is no change on the horizon from Backe’s perspective, just more work ahead.

“I think we need more time, we had a good preseason,” said the Swede. “I think we can do some improving, [on] offense and defensively.”

RBNY fans clamoring for DVB

The news last week that former Red Bulls midfielder Dave van den Bergh was released by FC Dallas excited New York fans, who seem to hope that the left-footed winger might find his way to Harrison. Some have even started a petition to see him come back to the team.

Further fueling the rumors, van den Bergh was present on Saturday night as part of the honorees in the team’s all-time best XI, going into the locker room and talking with his former teammates. Despite the team’s lack of depth on the left wing, Backe is doesn’t have any immediate plans for the Dutchman.

“I haven’t seen him play,” said Backe, “and at the moment, we’re staying with our squad.”