UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Over his past five MLS games, New York midfielder Dane Richards has scored all four of his league goals this season. After tallying several weeks ago in a 3-1 win over Colorado, Richards pointed to a goal he scored in mid-August while playing for the Jamaican national team for the boost to his recent form.
Richards said that while in Jamaica representing his country, he “drank some confidence.” Given his recent form, he must have bottled it or be taking it in through an IV drip. But if you gave him a blender, what ingredients would go into this confidence drink?
“Goals, passes and just playing well with the team,” Richards said, before laughing. “It’s delicious.”
Last weekend, Richards scored on a penalty kick in Jamaica’s 1-0 friendly win over Trinidad and Tobago. He recalls that Jamaica’s star attacker, Ricardo Fuller, gave him the ball and told him to take the chance from the penalty spot. Richards powered the ball past the 'keeper, his first penalty kick taken since his days of college soccer at Clemson.
Richards’ goal-scoring party over the recent month is in big part because Thierry Henry is on the guest list these days. All of Richards’ goals in MLS play this season have come since the former Barcelona striker debuted in mid-July with the club.
It's evident that Richards now has more space to attack with the movement and presence of Henry in the starting XI. Henry likes to move and break outside the penalty area and forward Juan Pablo Angel will break towards the goal when Richards has the ball on the right flank.
This means that when Richards creates some space, he often finds room to attack because of this movement by the forwards off the ball.
“Since [Henry] arrived here, I started scoring,” Richards said. “Not just me, the team. My teammates have been saying, ‘What happened?’ Well, nothing happened.”
Richards said that he now just has more opportunities to score, and he’s putting them away. On Saturday in a scoreless draw when Richards was away with the national team, it was clear that the Red Bulls missed the Jamaican speedster and his recent form up and down the right flank.
“He’s flying every time he touches the ball,” head coach Hans Backe said. “He’s scoring goals. We need his pace.”
The Red Bulls and the nearly 400 supporters who will make the trip to PPL Park this Saturday for the match against the Union are hoping that Richards and his recent goal for Jamaica carry over to Saturday. Jamaica do have other friendlies scheduled this year, but Richards is hoping to turn down the call.
“[There’s one on] Nov. 17, but unfortunately, I won’t be there,” Richards said. “Because I’ll be preparing for the MLS Cup.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012