GIASE: Red Bulls ready for two-match, two-turf stretch in New England and Portland

This would have been a week that would have caused some issues with the Red Bulls in past years. Fighting for first place in the Eastern Conference, with a strong chance for the Supporters’ Shield, they are about to play two road games in five days, both on artificial turf.
 
That meant Thierry Henry, their best offensive player, and Jamison Olave, their best defensive player, would sit out to protect their bodies from the unforgiving surface.
 
That’s not the case this year.
 
“I don’t understand the concept of not playing on turf,” coach Jesse Marsch said. “I know that there are certain players over time that have said that. Of course it’s not as easy on your body to play on turf as it is on grass, but there’s certain grass fields in this league that can be really hard at times and they’re just as difficult for players to adjust to.
 
“I don’t want to have a team that has certain guys that don’t want play on certain days, and that’s not a slight to anyone in the past, but we’re going to have a team that every day we step on the field and every guy’s committed to that. That part’s been good. There hasn’t been one discussion in the team about who’s going to play in the heat, who’s going to play in the elevation, who’s going to play on travel days, who’s going to play on turf. Everybody’s ready to go.”
 
So the Red Bulls, tied for first place with D.C. United with three games in hand, move confidently into a week that will see them take on the New England Revolution Wednesday night in Foxborough, Mass., and the Timbers Sunday night in Portland, Ore. Though Providence Park in Portland is considered to have one of the better artificial surfaces in Major League Soccer, the Revolution’s Gillette Stadium does not.
 
“I don’t mind the turf that much, to be honest,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “I guess I’m fortunate to not have to train on it every day. I don’t mind playing on turf, I never really minded it. Some guys complain about it being hard, but I’m okay. I’ve never had a problem with turf.”
 
Neither does Bradley Wright-Phillips, which is a bit surprising considering the England native grew up in a nation that frowns on anything other than a natural grass pitch.
 
“It’s alright,” the striker said. “Obviously it’s going to be a bit taxing for some players but, personally, I’ve been in the league now two years and it is what it is. It won’t do anything to our results or the game plan we have. We’ll go out there and play like it’s any other game. It’s two good teams. It’s going to be tough to get some points from these teams, but we’re very confident.”
 
Marsch says that although the Red Bulls have quality depth, he’s not expecting to make major lineup changes to accommodate the field surface.
 
“Right now I think we have enough time to recover coming out of the Chicago game,” he said. “In terms of this game, we’ll be able to look a lot from our first options, and then, with travel and the quick turnaround to go to Portland, we’ll have to figure out where we’re at.
 
“I’m certainly not looking to rotate, but if it makes sense to put a certain guy on the field, we do believe in every guy on this roster for sure and we certainly have a lot of depth. If guys get called on I know they’ll be ready to go. It’s more case by case then it is necessarily looking at a rotation.”
 
Kljestan agrees, although he is ready to play both games without a problem.
 
“That will be up to Jesse. We’ll see how we’re feeling after the first game,” he said “I don’t think we should be thinking about any changes before we play on Wednesday. We’ve got to go in on Wednesday and do a job. Maybe the result will determine whether he makes some changes. That will be up to Jesse, but I’m sure everybody is excited to play a big game on Wednesday and a big game in Portland, where you have a good atmosphere and a cool stadium. It’s a challenging week ahead.”
 
Though just 28 years old, midfielder Dax McCarty is in his 10th year in MLS. He’s played his share of games on artificial turf and, for better or worse, has gotten used to it.
 
“It’s a little different. It takes a little longer to recover,” he said. “Obviously there’s just a different feel to it. The ball bounces differently. Muscles feel differently on it. You have aches and pains everywhere. I’m used to it by now at this point. It’s not an excuse. Both teams have to play on it.
 
“What I would say is (New England’s) comfortable on it. They’ve been playing on it for their entire existence. They know exactly how to play well on it. They know what they want to do on it. It’s a tough game for us. We’re going to be ready for it. We know we can go in there with confidence and get a result. (The field’s) gotten better. I think they replaced it. It’s not as bad as it used to be. It’s not as soft as Portland but it’s still got a little bit of a bounce to it. You just have to be ready for anything.”

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