Following Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham, the Red Bulls took to the practice field at Montclair State on Friday morning hoping to eradicate any negative memories of the first match of the Barclays New York Challenge.
On the plus side, head coach Hans Backe praised the effort of Macoumba Kandji, who went the full 90 minutes for the first time since May. Backe said that he was surprised by the Kandji's fitness, given the forward was coming off an ankle injury that had sidelined him for June and much of July.
Overall, Kandji’s penchant for creating problems for Tottenham’s back line impressed Backe.
“I must say, Mac looked excellent yesterday,” said Backe, who praised Kandji's versatility as a forward or a winger. “His movement, even his one-v-one … was very good.”
Much of the practice focused on conditioning, with the starters from the Tottenham match working on regeneration. Captain Juan Pablo Angel worked with the training staff on his fitness. Angel missed Thursday’s match after suffering an ankle sprain last weekend in the loss to Columbus.
Angel said that he will be evaluated on Saturday to determine his availability for the match against Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.
“Today was probably my best day so far,” Angel said of the injury.
Angel admitted that he was frustrated at not being able to partner Thierry Henry in Thursday night’s game, but he praised Henry for scoring New York’s lone goal.
The difference with Henry was seen in the fluidity in the midfield, in particular on the counterattack. Backe said he instructed Kandji to stay centrally and to hold a high position, thus freeing Henry to roam.
This in turn opened up the attack for the rest of the New York players.
“I think I could see perhaps the difference in Joel [Lindpere],” said Backe, noting that his central midfielder had room to push forward.
Backe expects Henry to play 45 minutes on Sunday against Manchester City in their second match of the Barclays New York Challenge.
In player personnel moves, Backe reiterated his confidence of adding a third Designated Player to the roster during the summer transfer window. The Red Bulls head coach said the player they are pursuing currently has a contract offer from the team. All that is needed is for the player to ink his name.
“We’ll have to wait to get confirmation,” Backe said. He would not comment on whether the hold-up was on the player’s end or because of the transfer negotiations with the player's current club.
The coach also said he expects to see the player, if signed, line up at the bottom of a diamond midfield. This would mean, according to Backe, that Lindpere would be pushed to a central-left position in that diamond midfield. The Red Bulls coach also hinted that a former target from the spring transfer window, English forward Luke Rodgers, is still in the mix.
The team is awaiting the results of the player’s hearing to be granted a work visa to come to the United States.
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 at twitter.com/kdyer1012