New York fans need to be just a tad bit excited. Not only is their team off to a 4-1 start, but their reserves played Philadelphia in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game on Tuesday night and won – beating a team that was close to full strength in the second half.
Head coach Hans Backe lauded the effort by the young group, with Brian Nielsen the lone starter from this past weekend’s game to crack the cup team’s starting 11. Backe did say that in training, the second team is better at holding possession than the first team, so perhaps a player or two from the cup win finds his way onto the field for the next league match.
1. Danish Delight: Backe said the best way to get his latest signing game-fit was to play games, and Brian Nielsen has started both games he’s been eligible for since arriving last week. Backe praised Nielsen postgame for his pace and poise. Nielsen looked like a player that can add some creativity down the left flank and also take the pressure off Joel Lindpere in the midfield. Think Juan Pablo Ángel is smiling somewhere?
2. Stammler’s Strong Again: It was an uneasy couple performances for Stammler since his solid play against Seattle in the beginning of the month. As team captain, Stammler was the leader of the midfield. Rock-steady, he won ball after ball in the midfield and pushed well into the attack. It was a statement game for Stammler – though he denies looking at it that way.
“Hans will simply play the best players,” he said. Don’t be surprised if Stammler starts on the left side of midfield on Saturday against D.C. United, a position he played in his rookie season when he started in the MetroStars' playoff series again New England. “I was pretty much told to kick Steve Ralston,” Stammler said with a laugh. Backe said he’s open to Stammler on the left side of the midfield since Nielsen isn’t fully game fit.
3. Ch-ch-ch-Tchani: The New York first-round pick was scintillating at times on Tuesday night. Playing good balls, moving into the attack and looking dangerous, Backe noted that Tony Tchani’s passing was superb. So much so that the coach tallied just two errant passes by his creative mid in the first half. He looked smooth and comfortable on the ball.
Calling him the “king of the midfield,” Backe said that Tchani “dictated the game in a way.” It looks like he can be ready to contribute to the team with more extended minutes, including possibly the game at RFK Stadium this weekend.
4. Depth Charges: The win is nice and advancing in the cup is a positive, but this is a team that is deep and Tuesday night proved it. There isn’t a super sub off the bench for the Red Bulls, but with the emergence of Tchani and Conor Chinn scoring twice in the game, some legit options exist for Backe.
Throw in Chris Albright returning to game shape along with extra minutes for Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Danleigh Borman, and Tuesday night bodes well for this team. There is depth here.
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.