Dane Richards has provided a spark for the Red Bulls lately, but he'll miss Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake.
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International absences frustrate Red Bulls ahead of RSL match

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The already tough task of going into Salt Lake and Rio Tinto Stadium is even tougher this week for the Red Bulls, who will miss four regulars from their lineup  Saturday due to international call-ups.

Without goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, left back Roy Miller, right midfielder Dane Richards and central midfielder Rafa Márquez, the Red Bulls face an arduous task against the defending MLS champions.

That the league plays through these international fixture dates can be a challenge for all MLS teams, but Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said he understands why his players will leave to represent their countries.

“It’s a FIFA day, I have no problem [with them leaving],” Backe said. “I’m just concerned we’re still playing on a FIFA day.”

Backe said that everywhere he has coached a club – Scandinavia and England – it's "never been a problem” in terms of not playing club fixtures on a FIFA date. In his first year coaching in MLS, Backe is frustrated that he is losing four players due to the international call-ups. Ironically, the Red Bulls' star-studded roster puts them at a disadvantage when FIFA dates coincide with the MLS schedule.

[inline_node:315790]“We get punished,” Backe said.

The Red Bulls, who have taken nine points from their last four games, say they’re not even concerned about the loss of the four players this weekend, even as they face one of the league’s elite sides.

“It’s not something we talk about, who is here and who isn’t,” defender Danleigh Borman told MLSsoccer.com. “We know our roles, we have depth here on this team and, like Toronto a few weeks ago when we were missing players, we know we have guys who can step in right away and get things done.”

But that doesn’t mean the players left to face Salt Lake on Saturday aren’t left scratching their heads a bit at this quirk in MLS’ scheduling.

“First time I ever find myself in the situation where a lot of our players are away and we still have to play,” Thierry Henry said.

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012