The ever-reliable defensive play of Carlos Mendes allowed the New York Red Bulls to hold the Los Angeles Galaxy to just one goal in Sunday’s series opener at Red Bull Arena. Now, as the teams head back to The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA for the final match of the Conference Semifinals, Coach Hans Backe will be looking at right back Jan Gunnar Solli to add some fire to the Red Bulls’ offense.
“[He’s] definitely more of an attacking fullback,” Backe said. “That can probably help us in our attacking game.”
Solli was forced to sit out Sunday’s match at at Red Bull Arena after receiving a straight red card in the Wild Card match against FC Dallas. Obviously not satisfied with having to miss time, Solli hopes his play will help create big things for New York when they take on the Galaxy in the second and final leg of the Conference Semifinals, Thursday at 11pm ET on ESPN2.
“They managed to close down our right side a little bit more than maybe I was hoping,” Solli said, “but now it’s a new game and hopefully I can come and help Dane a little bit in the offensive parts and maybe the game opens up.”
Although Solli finished the regular season without picking up a goal, his seven assists and ability to create contributes greatly to the Red Bulls' offense. Need proof? Look no further than Dane Richards’ goal against the Philadelphia Union. Solli’s cross created the opportunity, one that was initially ruled an own-goal but later rescinded and credited to Richards.
Even when he’s thinking goal, like he was against the Galaxy on Oct. 4, Solli’s work on net leads to good things for New York. If you watch highlights from that match, you’ll notice Solli’s attempt at sending home a header off a corner was thwarted by the Galaxy, but the rebound opportunity was prime for Luke Rodgers to bury the loose ball. Without putting the header on goal, who knows what comes of the play that allowed Rodgers to put up the tally.
“It’s nice to be missed in the offensive play, but I see myself as a defender first of all,” Solli said after Tuesday’s training session at Red Bull Arena. “I have to take care of the business back and help the back four and be good in the communication part and keeping the team tight.”
Down 1-0, at a point that many consider the 90-minute mark of a 180-minute game, the Red Bulls head into LA needing goals. With Solli back on the pitch creating chances on offense and defending in his own end, they’ll aim to do just that.