Ahead of Friday night’s exhibition against Brazilian club side Cruzeiro, the Red Bulls are back together and training.
Head coach Hans Backe gave the team some time off after their June 5 win over Chivas USA, letting the team take a 10-day break to recuperate.
Since opening Red Bull Arena with a 3-0 win over Santos in late March, the club has been busy. All told, the Red Bulls can count 12 games played in the league this season, tied for most in the Eastern Conference, plus three U.S. Open Cup matches and two exhibitions. They’ve made three trips to the West Coast so far and twice had to play a man down in the month of May. All that can wear on a team, especially given the restrictions MLS has on roster size.
Backe said that the team was tired in their last MLS game, but he was pleased with the effort in practice on Thursday, the day before New York’s exhibition against Cruzeiro.
“They looked lively today,” Backe said, noting that it was a good practice and the team didn’t seem too out of sorts after the vacation.
It will be a mix of the first-team and the reserves against the Brazilian club, with Backe saying that he is going to mix the two lineups. According to the coach, 17 field players will be available for him and he’s hoping that a number of the regulars will play a half in the match. Some of the younger players, he noted, “might go 90.”
After a string of minor injuries and knocks, including a calf injury suffered on June 2 in the win over Houston, Backe said that midfielder Joel Lindpere is back and will “definitely” play against Houston. Brian Nielsen, who trained on Thursday and participated in the scrimmage because he hasn’t reached match fitness yet. Backe also said that Salou Ibrahim will play against Cruzeiro.
Dane Richards and Roy Miller are definitely out of the lineup as they did fitness work, along with Mac Kandji, who is recovering from injury. All three ran a series of laps around the field on Thursday afternoon in training and Kandji told MLSSoccer.com last week that he is progressing well on the injury front and hopes to be playing soon.
Friday’s game is a good chance for the team to stay sharp after the break, when many players headed home and there was no organized practice at the team’s facility at Montclair State University. Ahead of next weekend’s away game against the Wizards, the friendly allows the players to work out the cobwebs a bit.
“This game is good,” said Backe. “[It’s] good to get one friendly after the break before Kansas.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed on Twitter at @kdyer1012.