UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Finding the back of the net has come easy for the New York Red Bulls the past two weeks. The offense has netted nine times during that span, en route to becoming the league leader in goals scored.
But those numbers are a bit deceiving, as nine of their 10 goals scored this season have come from in-form forwards Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper. Head coach Hans Backe readily acknowledges that, and admits his team needs more production from outside midfielders Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere in order to continue to pull out results.
“It’s more that they haven’t been themselves comparing to last year,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com after Red Bulls practice on Wednesday. “Our four front players last year, I think that they scored up to perhaps 90 percent of the goals. I hope that they can bounce back, but they have been a little bit too passive.”
Backe pointed out that the team as a whole have not played well in their first two road games of the year, a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas and a 2-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake. In order to turn that around in Columbus on Saturday, the tentative play from the wings will have to end.
“We need probably a little bit more from our wide players when we’re on the road,” Backe said. “Wide right, wide left has to be a little more creative. I think that is the key.
“It’s too many side passes, backpasses when you have the possibility to take [opponents] on. It’s to encourage these guys that in the attacking game that you need to take chances and not only play safe.”
Richards and Lindpere, who each had seven goals and seven assists in 2011, have yet to record either a month into the season. But that slow start isn’t all too different from last year.
In the Red Bulls’ first four games of 2011, the two outside midfielders combined for one goal and no assists as New York started the year with a 1-1-2 record.
“We’re not going to get good stats all the time,” said Richards. “Just be a good team player and support, try to make passes and to help get assists. Just got to keep playing, they will come.”
Backe says his tactics for Lindpere and Richards have not changed this season. The 60-year-old coach wants Richards to threaten down the flank with his speed, stating opposing teams are scared of how fast the Jamaican international is.
As for Lindpere, Backe wants the Estonian midfielder to return to top form even as he deals with multiple niggling injuries sustained during preseason.
“A couple kicks have been slowing me down,” said Lindpere,” but we need to give a little extra push.”