Hans Backe Colorado
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Thursday NY Gaffer: Questions abound after dismal performance

The message from the Red Bulls locker room after Thursday night’s 4-1 loss at Colorado was that this game was over and it was time to move on. The Thursday Gaffer looks at the loss, which the Red Bulls were at a loss to explain:

Horrible Start – It only took 75 seconds into the match for Sanna Nyassi to begin to piece together his hat trick, and the early Colorado lead set the tone for a match where the Red Bulls never seemed settled. That early goal didn’t seem to rattle to life a team that appeared listless at the opening whistle, unable or unwilling to respond from Colorado’s rapid start.

“We get the worst possible start, then they score two really quick goals,” right back Jan Gunnar Solli said. “I don’t know if we were switched on.”

During their rough stretch in May and June, the Red Bulls had made a habit of grabbing the lead and then conceding soft goals. On Wednesday night, they started soft, an even more disturbing trend.

All About Shape – The trade for defensive midfielder Dax McCarty was supposed to shore up the New York midfield and see a return to the box midfield that head coach Hans Backe implemented with success last season. The Red Bulls have struggled offensively to generate a spark from this new alignment and as evidenced against the Rapids, now have no answer defensively either.

McCarty struggled with his assignments and Mehdi Ballouchy, a natural attacking player who took the place of the injured Teemu Tainio in the starting lineup, was being asked to play further back than accustomed.

“Our shape, we didn’t slide for each other, we didn’t defend for each other,” Ballouchy said.

Lacking Sharpness – Outside of Thierry Henry’s second half goal, it was a dud performance from New York. The backline was consistently exposed between the center backs, the passing from the back four was uncharacteristically sloppy, the wing play was nonexistent and there was no chemistry between Henry and strike partner Juan Agudelo.

“We made so many mistakes in between each other, the understanding, the knowledge in between,” head coach Hans Backe said. “I haven’t seen that many [mistakes] in one and a half years with the team. It wasn’t us at all.” But the time for excuses is drawing to a close for New York, who despite injuries to Rafa Marquez, Tainio and Luke Rodgers, still boast a star-studded lineup.

Turn Around – Mercifully, the Red Bulls can wipe the taste of this loss out of their mouth with a quick turn-around, as a home match against FC Dallas looms Saturday night (6:00 pm ET, MSG, Galavision). Perhaps a strong performance against the MLS Cup runner-ups will get this team to find a little swagger again.

“After a loss, usually we’ve been able to bounce back, and done a much better performance,” Solli said.”

Whether or not they can do it, though, is another matter.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer