Missing four players due to international duty, the Red Bulls knew they would have their depth tested on Wednesday night. And having watched his side play three U.S. Open Cup games and a myriad of friendlies, head coach Hans Backe said he was pleased with the reserve options he had on the bench.
That deep roster showed itself in New York’s 1-0 over Toronto.
In fact, Backe was sufficiently impressed his team's performance that he doesn’t feel any pressure to make any additions that would give the club more options off the bench.
“The depth looks okay,” Backe said. “I don’t think we need to any trades now.”
In the win over Toronto, the Red Bulls made three changes to the side that tied Chicago 0-0 on Sunday night, as they are in the middle of a stretch of three matches in a six day span.
Without Rafael Márquez (Mexico), goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul (Senegal), left back Roy Miller (Costa Rica) and right midfielder Dane Richards (Jamaica), the Red Bulls clearly seemed a shadow of the team that dominated their past two matches. The passing and precision perhaps wasn’t there like it had been in the previous two games, but New York played some effective and efficient soccer.
“It was more of a battle [tonight],” Backe said. “But we stood up.”
Most impressive for the Red Bulls is that they haven't lost in their last three league games, earning two draws on the road and clawing their way to a Wednesday's defeat of Toronto. And despite the depleted midweek roster, the Red Bulls played a tight and compact game that limited the visitor's time and space in the attacking third.
And even with new and old faces mixed into the starting lineup, the Red Bulls say their busy summer of friendly matches and cup games has built a roster that is ready to play at any moment.
“The players have more experience, so it is easier to come into a game after not playing awhile,” Danleigh Borman told MLSSoccer.com. “We are comfortable with each other because of those games where everybody gets a chance to play. So it’s really not that hard for someone that doesn’t normally start.”
The depleted Red Bulls went against a nearly full-strength Toronto side as Backe was able to use the depth he built this summer to effect a win.
Because of the numerous friendly and cup games, the players said they are a sharp side. On Wednesday night, the Red Bulls’ depth gave the team a five-point cushion over third-place Toronto.
Ibrahim pointed to the recent friendly match against Manchester City and then a scrimmage against the team’s U-20 side recently as ways the players stayed sharp.
“I felt like when I was out there, I was sharp, everything was fine,” Ibrahim told MLSSoccer.com. “I haven’t played as much due to injury lately but the match against Manchester City and then the scrimmage helped me over the past couple games to stay at a high level.
According to defender Carlos Mendes, the second longest tenured player on the team, this is the deepest and most versatile roster he’s ever seen on this team. He says that depth like this becomes crucial in matches such as Wednesday night against Toronto.
“Coach has always said there isn’t a lot of difference between the first and second team,” Mendes said. “The guys can move in and out. You see that in friendly matches and the U.S. Open Cup, we’re deep and in matches like tonight when you need that, we have it.”
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