New York's Mac Kandji worked out Thursday in preparation for a possible return to the lineup this weekend.
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Red Bulls firing on all cylinders ahead of D.C. match

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – As Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe stood on the sidelines watching his team practice on Thursday, he couldn’t help but crack a smile watching the group interact. There was his New York squad, near the top of the table, talking tactics and working through their problems – and he didn’t even have to step in.

“The session was very good – it was very lively,” Backe told “You can see confidence and you can see the composure we had on the ball. We didn’t force many things today.”

It got feisty at times on the field, but it wasn’t frustration born from lack of effort. Rather, this team is beginning to hold each other accountable and demanding perfection each day.

A last-place team in 2009, this year’s Red Bulls hold each other to a higher standard.

And it doesn’t hurt that forward Mac Kandji could be on the bench for Saturday’s game against D.C. United. Thursday’s was the sixth practice session for Kandji, who could “be an option for 20, maybe 30 minutes” on Saturday, according to Backe.

Backe also said that Salou Ibrahim, who has struggled with some recent knocks, is available to start. Carl Robinson, while not ready to play this weekend, is also “very close” to match readiness. The New York coach praised the player’s work ethic after knee surgery a little more than a month ago.

“The way his knee responded is perfect,” Backe said. “There is no swelling at all.”

For D.C. United, the same back line should be in place, a unit which has allowed just two goals in the last four games. Backe is pleased with their play and shape. The standard 4-4-2 formation will be implemented after the team went with a 4-5-1 starting lineup for the Colorado match.