The Red Bulls are edging closer to full health as a number of players are returning to the pitch from various injuries. Defender Heath Pearce is one of those guys, as he made his return to the lineup Friday against the Houston Dynamo. While the outcome and performance was not exactly what he and the team had in mind, Pearce is confident that the match helped him get his feet back and primed him and the rest of the Red Bulls for the perfect opportunity to reverse the outcome home at Red Bull Arena Friday night (8 PM ET, NBC Sports).
You had a chance to get back out there against Houston last week after that hamstring injury kept you out of the lineup for a few games. Obviously not the sort of outcome the team would’ve liked, but how did you feel overall?
It was a tough game for us. I thought that I played pretty poorly, but on a fitness side and stuff it was good to get out there. [Macoumba] Kandji was running at me most of the game, so it’s those types of scenarios you can’t really simulate that much in training as you can in games. So to get out there and have to naturally react and force and breakdown steps and test my body and come out tired but uninjured is an important thing for me.
Exactly one week to the day the team will have a chance to right the wrongs from last week’s performance. What will the focus be Friday night?
We gave up a goal early and that’s always tough. You play away to Houston and they haven’t lost at home and they’ve got a lot of motivation and a good crowd. And all that’s forgotten. We’re at home. We’ve got a great home record. We know what we did wrong and we expect more of ourselves and I think we’ll be prepared Friday to come and get a result.
You talked about Kandji running on you last game. How will the team look to lock him down this time around?
It’s more about focusing on our game. I think that’s something we didn’t do. I don’t think that we necessarily have been passing well. We weren’t pressing well as a team. We weren’t doing all the things right that made us good as a team. So if we can focus on those then I think we can force them to have to change their game up and make adjustments to our style as opposed to us trying to adjust to their style.
All season long there’s been a big “what if” surrounding the team. “What if” everyone was healthy. “What if” these guys had time to play together without the injuries. Now, as guys are on their way back, we may soon finally get an answer to that question.
Yeah, definitely. We’re getting close. We’ve got a lot of good players but we’ve been battling injuries all season. And that’s no excuse, but the team’s been doing well to get points anyway. The team’s coming around, we’re getting more fit and we’re excited to hopefully put our best 11 out on the field and challenge the rest of the teams in the league.