The Red Bulls haven’t charged much as of late, losers of their last four in league play.
While two of the losses came in games where they played a man down – or like Saturday night, when New York were down two men the final 15 minutes of the match – the Red Bulls are fast approaching “must-win” territory to right the ship.
Over the past two league matches in which they’ve conceded a total of six goals, the Red Bulls went from top of the Eastern Conference to third place.
Practice on Tuesday morning saw a fiery head coach Hans Backe demanding tighter play from his team and better overall performance on the field. The squad spent a lot of time working on crosses from the left side of the midfield and maintaining the shape of their backline, a staple of the team during their strong start to the season.
In particular, the Red Bulls wanted to stay more compact as a back four as Roy Miller pumped in balls from about 35 yards out as central defenders Mike Petke and Tim Ream handled the crosses and neutralized the inswinging crosses. Backe said after practice that he’d like to see the defenders making plays and clearing out dangerous opportunities rather than try to maintain possession.
On the injury front, midfielder Joel Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com that he is back and fully ready after missing the Columbus match two weeks ago with a groin strain. Backe confirmed his breakout newcomer will go the full 90 on Wednesday against Houston.
Brian Nielsen, the Danish import, spent more than an hour running laps around the field and said that he is “getting better.” Backe is hopeful that Nielsen will see the field soon, commenting that, “He can shoot, he can run,” but that “his movement right to left, left to right” is strained. Backe did praise Nielsen for his improved fitness, crediting long hours logged on the treadmill.
Additionally, Salou Ibrahim was also on the field Tuesday and practicing with the first team. Salou was sporting a wrapping around his right leg but didn’t seem to be hampered by the injury. Backe said that Salou will provide a “target” presence up top against Houston at Red Bull Arena.
Having come off knee surgery last week, Carl Robinson walked laps around the field and was excited about his fast recovery. “I’m biking after five days!” Robinson told MLSsoccer.com and he is eager to get back on the field sooner than the original timeline of five to six weeks.
From practice, it looks as if the Starting XI for Houston will be:
GK – Bouna Coundoul
D – Chris Albright, Mike Petke, Tim Ream, Danleigh Borman
M – Dane Richards, Seth Stammler, Joel Lindpere, Sinisa Ubiparipovic
F – Juan Pablo Angel, Salou Ibrahim
It looks like Ubiparipovic will be the option wide left with Stammler tucking in a bit deeper as a defensive midfielder, who can win balls and feed centrally to Lindpere.