It took the Red Bulls until September to notch their fourth win last year, and this year April concludes with the team at 4-1 and atop the Eastern Conference. When asked last week about the first-place Red Bulls, forward Juan Pablo Angel laughed at the thought of a team that struggled so much last year leading the charge in this campaign.
Four things we learned from Saturday’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia:
1. The Cardiac Kids – These Red Bulls ain’t gonna win pretty, that much is certain as all four of the team’s wins have come by a one-goal margin. The Red Bulls win by grit and pluckiness, and they maintain their shape well—even when they’re being outplayed. In an even game, this team has proven it will find a way to win. “Coming off last year, we’re happy to just be winning,” midfielder Dane Richards said. Head coach Hans Backe wasn’t pleased with his side, lamenting that the team didn’t do a good job of controlling the game’s flow.
2. Backe-ing Off the Open Cup – A couple weeks ago, Backe had said that he would use his starters on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup and would make winning the tournament a priority for the team. Not anymore, according to the coach’s postgame press conference. Tuesday night will be a chance for the younger players and reserves to see some action because Backe wants to focus on the league in his first season in MLS. “With the Juventus game coming in, if we win in the cup, we would probably play nine games from today until June 5 and I don’t think this squad is able to cope with that,” Backe said. The coach added that he is looking forward to seeing first-round pick Tony Tchani play on Tuesday night.
3. Reinforcements On The Way – In his post-game remarks, Backe said that he is looking to use the team’s open Designated Player slots on a forward and a central attacking midfielder. In addition, he said that he is looking within MLS for help along the backline. Overall, he is pleased with a few of his starters, but it is clear that more additions will be forthcoming as the team eyes the summer transfer window. Backe feels that the team doesn’t control the game or possession, playing too much direct soccer for his liking.
4. Danish Debut – With just a single training session under his belt, midfielder Brian Nielsen started on Saturday against the Union and played well into the second-half. Nielsen, who had battled a virus for three days last week, looked dangerous at times but lacked a decent work-rate down the left flank. If he was healthy and fit “he would be definitely a good wide left player for us,” Backe said. Forward Juan Pablo Angel seemed impressed enough, saying “you can tell that he can play.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.