Although the effects of Hurricane Sandy still remain prevalent throughout the New York/New Jersey area, it was back to business for the Red Bulls Wednesday afternoon as they prepare for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against D.C. United.
Despite a number of road blocks, downed trees, power outages and various other obstacles brought on by the storm, all but two players made it into training Wednesday. Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette was unable to find a passable route to training, while midfielder Tim Cahill is healing up after experiencing minor discomfort in his calf. According to assistant coach Jan Halvorsen, the injury is not a big concern and Cahill is expected to start Saturday against D.C. United.
“[On Wednesday] it was the most important to get the body going after two days off,” Halvorsen said, as the team was forced to miss a day of training due to weather conditions. “That we normally do after one day off, just to get the body going – one hour and ten minutes. It was a good mood and the session was very good.”
He also added that the team’s sessions over the last two to three weeks have been quite intensive, so missing one day isn’t a big problem.
Defender Heath Pearce reinforced that sentiment.
“We’re on the field. We’re focused. We have the pitch is in quality shape still, or it’s pretty much the same as it has been,” he said. “We’re focused. Obviously after an extra day off, we needed a day to get going again. I know that everybody will come out tomorrow fresh and ready to improve and prepare for the game this weekend.”
The rivalry between D.C. and New York is a lasting one, and one that does not sway particularly in New York’s favor. In seven postseason matches, dating back to the first meeting in 1998, New York is 1-5-1 all-time against their rivals.
However, the past is the past. This season, the two sides leveled off with a 1-1-1 record in three meetings. D.C. claimed the first in a 4-1 win in late April, while New York rallied back at home on June 24 to win 3-2 and saw some last-minute heroics from Wilman Code on August 29 to draw level at 2-2.
“There’s always hostility in the playoffs,” Pearce said of the rivalry. “Guys are playing for a championship, so no matter who we’re playing against we’re expecting it to be an aggressive and intense game from both sides.”
“It’s going to be intense. There’s a lot of good storylines going into this, so we expect this to be an exciting game, not just for us, but for the fans as well.”
MLS announced Wednesday evening that the first leg of the semifinals, initially slated for Red Bull Arena, will be played at D.C. United's RFK Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8:00 PM. The second leg will take place at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 8:00 PM.