UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – It has been a tough spell for the Red Bulls, who played four MLS matches over a 15-day span that included two long flights to Houston and Chicago and grueling, physical contests at home against Toronto and Los Angeles.
Back at the team's training facilities on Monday, the Red Bulls were hoping to erase a stretch of play that has seen them struggle offensively. In their past seven matches, New York have scored just four goals.
“I think it is the most difficult thing to do in [soccer] is to score goals,” New York head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “I do think that, in a way, the balance of our team and our possession has looked rather good.”
The Red Bulls created multiple chances on Saturday night against Los Angeles. All told, the squad held a lead in shots, corner kicks and possession, but didn’t have a goal to show for their decided advantage. [inline_node:315975]
“It was an even game against LA—they are a good team, a solid team," Backe said. "We created possession in a good way after the first 10 minutes or so. … But we did have good scoring chances. In that final third, in a way, we’re still lacking a bit although we are creating those chances.”
Two of those players who are being counted on to score the goals, Juan Pablo Angel and Thierry Henry, were both absent from Monday’s training as they did regeneration and fitness work. New signing Rafa Márquez, who was disappointing in his home debut with the team, went the full training session.
Even as many of the starters left after some light drills and stretching, Márquez stayed behind to work with the second team. He participated in the small-sided and possession games and looked more settled than he did on Saturday night.
Backe expects to have both players available on Saturday when the Red Bulls travel to Toronto.
“Thierry is ready, perhaps, for 90 minutes again,” Backe said. “I think Rafa is close to that.”
It was a spirited morning session that got a bit physical at times and chippy, especially the small-sided games among the reserves. The highlight of the games was a laser hit by Seth Stammler, who scorched a shot past Greg Sutton in goal. It was a 12-yard effort from the right flank, but the ball didn’t seem to knuckle, just whirl. ... Márquez focused mainly on one-touch passing throughout the drills.
Ibrahim Salou took a bit of a knock from a teammate during the small-sided game. Other than giving a dirty look and walking tenderly for a minute, he appeared fine. ... Irving Garcia did some limited fitness and agility work. ... Jeremy Hall continued his fitness training with the hope of being available this weekend to travel.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012