UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The Red Bulls head into Saturday night’s away match at Real Salt Lake with a tough task.
Their foes are in the running for the Supporters' Shield and haven’t lost in league play at Rio Tinto in more than a season. Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe has constantly praised Real Salt Lake over the past weeks as one of the most impressive clubs he has seen in MLS and spoke highly of their ability to move the ball and maintain possession.
Without four regulars, who all have been called away for international duty, New York will have to show if they are real or fake.
Four thoughts heading into Saturday’s match:
Time To Step Up – Early in the season, New York showed the depth on their bench when they won three straight qualifiers to get into the US Open Cup, using primarily reserve players to earn the impressive results.
Now, several of those players will be called upon to provide the Red Bulls a lift, much like they did against Toronto FC several weeks ago when several starters were away with their national teams.
“Simply, we have a lot of depth on this team and it is for moments like this, games like this,” Danleigh Borman told MLSsoccer.com. “That is why we train so hard and work so hard; to be ready to step in for whatever reason.”
The Champs – Backe has often referred to Real Salt Lake as one of the best teams in the league along with Los Angeles and Columbus, and he knows his own side will be in for quite a test on Saturday night. Especially impressive to Backe is the central midfield pairing of their opponent.
“[Kyle] Beckerman and [Javier] Morales can make a difference on any team,” Backe said. “I hope they don’t beat us five or six-nil.”
The team is aware of how good RSL have been this season and, in particular, their impressive midfield flow.
“I saw the final last year against LA,” Thierry Henry said of Salt Lake. “They’re well organized – they’re the champs. It’s gonna be a tough one for us, especially at their place.”
The Road Warriors – Coming off a season where the team didn’t record a single victory on the road, the Red Bulls’ five away victories are in and of themselves a sign of how far this team has progressed in less than a year.
Last month, New York went on the road in Toronto and handed the home side its first league loss at BMO Field all year. Now, the Red Bulls are set to try and get a point in what has become an impenetrable castle for RSL. But is RSL’s home success a talking point for the team?
“I didn’t even know about their home record,” Borman said. “No, it’s not something we’re talking about.”
The Changes – With four starters out, it appears that the Red Bulls have set their starting XI.
Greg Sutton will start in goal for Bouna Coundoul and it appears Borman will get the nod for Roy Miller at left back.
In the midfield, it should be Macoumba Kandji on the right wing with Seth Stammler joining Tony Tchani centrally. Midfielder Joel Lindpere, who was playing centrally until a switch wide left last month, will “probably play wide left” for this match, said Backe.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.