If the LA Galaxy are hoping for at least a little fatigue from the New York Red Bulls in the Western Conference Semifinals, they might be a little disappointed.
Head coach Hans Backe praised his team's focus Friday after returning from a 2-0 wild card win over FC Dallas, and asserted that there will be no letdown when his team square off against the LA Galaxy at Red Bull Arena on Sunday (3 pm ET, ESPN2/Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
"There is no way there will be any kind of fatigue for these players," Backe told reporters on a conference call on Friday; his Red Bulls are 5-2-1 in their last eight games. "The sessions have been the best two sessions so far this season. Definitely a [mental] change when we won the game against Philadelphia and went into the playoffs. I’m quite sure our players will lift their game against LA."
The second-year New York manager talked earlier in the week with how pleased he was with the crispness of the team prior to departing for their wild card playoff game at FC Dallas. With their backs against the wall for the last eight weeks, the Red Bulls have largely responded with gritty defending and dependable finishing.
“We’ve definitely gotten stronger, mentally, we’re all in a good frame of mind right now,” defender Tim Ream said. “But we still can get sharper and continue to play better.”
After a season where he was among the best rookies in the league, Ream had some ups and downs this year with the Red Bulls and the national team, leading to some talk of a sophomore slump.
But much like his teammates, Ream rebounded from a lackluster summer to kick things into gear for his club. The timing couldn’t be any better for New York.
“I feel more and more comfortable as the games and the weeks go on – I’m feeling more confident again,” Ream said. “Everyone makes mistakes, and ours just happen to be in front of 20,000 people and reporters. You just have to get beyond that.
“I think the biggest thing at this level is confidence, making your decisions and living with them,” Ream continued. “At the middle of the year I wasn’t as confident, but I’ve gotten that back.”