The New York Red Bulls have managed to pull off results all season long despite being decimated by injuries. But that was not the case against the New England Revolution.
The battered Red Bulls failed to win for the fifth time in their last six league matches on Sunday, suffering a 2-0 defeat to their northern rivals in a match that magnified just how much New York misses such top players as Thierry Henry, Rafa Márquez and Heath Pearce.
“We are without six regulars, so I can’t expect much more from these guys,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe told reporters after the game. “They did what they could do in a way with the work rate and the energy they showed in the second half but of course we’re too shorthanded.”
The Red Bulls lacked offensive punch against the Revolution in New York’s house of horrors, Gillette Stadium, where they are winless since 2002. That allowed New England to look the better side during the opening 45 minutes, and the hosts jumped out in front thanks to a well-taken strike from Lee Nguyen.
As much as the Red Bulls tried, they could not muster anything offensively for the remainder of the half. They improved after the intermission and nearly equalized through Kenny Cooper, but his shot caromed off the right post rather than going in. For the most part the offense could not manage to create quality looks without Henry, who sat out of his seventh league match of the year.
“He has problems with his calf,” said Backe. “Every time he does turf games, he picks up a calf or something like that, so we can’t play him on these kinds of turfs.”
Backe might have been brutally honest in terms of the injury situation New York is currently going through, but the Red Bulls players would not lay blame on them being undermanned. (The Red Bulls had only six players on the bench out of a possible seven.)
“As far as injuries, every team has injuries, so it’s no excuse,” said center back Stephen Keel. “We’ve had injuries before and we’ve won games, so it’s not an excuse. I don’t think anyone in here will tell you that, so we’ve got to bounce back and pick up three points at home.”
While that may need to be the Red Bulls’ focus as they head into a home stretch that starts with a test against the Seattle Sounders next Sunday, Backe’s frustration of not being able to field a consistent starting lineup is become as evident as ever.
“It’s annoying,” said Backe. “We haven’t played two games in a row with a full-strength team. … These guys played quite good a month ago and I think we won five in a row with almost the same team, but at the end of the day, you can’t pick up wins as we did earlier [in the year with so many injuries].”