Coming into the final game of their trip to Florida, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe was looking for his team to attack and generate scoring opportunities early and often.
New York accomplished this, riding a second minute Thierry Henry goal and a one-goal, one-assist performance by Mehdi Ballouchy to earn a 2-0 win over NASL side, the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Saturday afternoon at Lockhart Stadium.
WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY
“Even the way we played the second half, we have trained so much everyday so there are players getting fatigued. I’m not surprised that the tempo dropped a little bit. But a solid performance (in which) we only allowed them to one chance in the 90 minutes. It’s a game I’m satisfied with,” Backe said.
Henry helped New York take control of the match seconds into the encounter. Ballouchy had space by the right corner flag and drove a cross to an unmarked Henry, who tapped it home from close range.
“Whenever you can go up early in a half or late in the half, it kind of sets the tone for the half that you’re playing,” said defender Tim Ream. “Going one-up early on is a big positive for us. You know that it’s not just going to be a one-goal game and it’s tough to a one-goal lead but at the same time, it’s a good way to start the game and it sets the tempo.”
With Ream and the rest of the defense solid, New York, which controlled most of the match, nearly doubled its lead 20 minutes later. Tony Tchani found Roy Miller on the left wing. The Costa Rican then swung a pass into the 18-yard box that was deflected goalbound by Jan Gunnar Solli and then parried by goalkeeper Nic Platter. Henry later fired a shot from a Joel Lindpere feed that trickled just past the left post.
“I think it’s more that we just said we had to take more chances in the last third in the attacking game and don’t just keep possession,” Backe said. “Normally in this warmer heat, you need to have possession, otherwise it kills you. But the decision making and the balance was much better today.”
The hosts’ best opportunity of the match came when midfielder Bryan Arguez’s left footed shot sailed just over the bar at the end of the first half.
Both teams prodded for a goal in the second half and it took a moment of individual skill to give the Red Bulls a two-goal advantage with 15 minutes left to play. Ballouchy gained control of the ball outside of the penalty box and dribbled through the Strikers’ defense before rolling a shot past goalkeeper Matt Glaeser. The Moroccan, who has taken a role as an attacking midfielder, playing behind the forwards, has enjoyed his responsibility thus far.
“I think I do have a bit of freedom but I think it’s also a lot of running,” Ballouchy said. “It’s something that I’m willing to do – I enjoy it, I enjoy defending, I enjoy joining the attack. When our shape is good and our movement as well, it’s a great position.”
The Red Bulls return home Sunday morning before traveling on Thursday for its final preseason trip of the year to Arizona. New York returns to action on Friday, March 4 when it takes on the FC Tucson in Tucson, AZ. Tickets for the Red Bulls’ 2011 season at Red Bull Arena are on sale now by calling 1.877.RBSOCCER or logging onto www.newyorkredbulls.com.
New York Red Bulls 2, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 0
February 26, 2011; Lockhart Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
NY: Thierry Henry 2 (Mehdi Ballouchy 1) 2’
NY: Mehdi Ballouchy 1 (unassisted) 75’
FTL: Aaron Wheeler (caution) 44’
FTL: Marcel Mowouve (caution) 79’
New York Red Bulls – Greg Sutton (GK) (Bouna Coundoul 46’), Roy Miller (Danleigh Borman 46'), Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez (Carlos Mendes 46’), Teemu Tainio* (Chris Albright 63’), Joel Lindpere, Mehdi Ballouchy, Tony Tchani (Carl Robinson 73’), Jan Gunnar Solli (Juan Agudelo 46’), Dane Richards, Thierry Henry
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers – Nic Platter (GK) (Matt Glaeser 46’), Lance Laing (Adam West 46’), Rob Valentino (Adam Howorth 63’) , Aaron Hohlbein (Marcel Mowouve 63’), Martin Lancaster, Bruno Silva (Brian Shriver 46’), Eduardo Coudet (Michael Palacio 46’), Paulino (Patrick Otte 46’), Bryan Arguez, Martin Nunez (David Santamaria 63’), Aaron Wheeler (Jean Philippe Peguero 46’)
* - Non-Roster Player