‘Running With The Red Bulls’
By Sean Hartnett
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The Red Bulls’ winless drought finally ended precisely when their backs started to be pressed against the wall. A defeat in Dallas on Saturday would have forced New York to continue walking a dangerous tightrope toward an uncertain playoff fate.
Like an open wound, the Red Bulls were bleeding badly as they hobbled into Dallas with a shorthanded squad and without a victory since July 6th. Thierry Henry failed to make the trip to the Lone Star State and three of New York’s four regulars in defense were missing due to injury or suspension. A makeshift backline was formed without the services of Rafa Marquez, Jan Gunnar Solli and Roy Miller.
Some clubs fall by the wayside in these circumstances but with one eye on the standings, the Red Bulls pulled together and completed a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas on Saturday. They played like a club united in belief when they stepped onto the pitch at Pizza Hut Park. Forget the bad luck, injuries, pressure and suspensions. Eleven men on a field can control their own destiny by working together for the common goal of pulling New York back into playoff position.
In his return to the starting lineup, Frank Rost made a number of important saves early in the match that kept FC Dallas from gaining an important upper hand in the match. The veteran German keeper finally returned to full health and displayed a strong example of why the Red Bulls made him a designated player. A weight upon the shoulders of the club was lifted in the 36th minute when Juan Agudelo made a free run into the box and set up Luke Rodgers who gave the Red Bulls a lead they clung onto for the remainder of the match.
Their replacements at the back did their job in the second half to keep the result by making unselfish blocks and positioning themselves smartly, not overawed by the task of getting that long-awaited three points. That kind of coolness is what New York will hope to continue when they face Real Salt Lake back at Red Bull Arena tonight.
The return of Solli and Marquez from suspension and the recovery of Rodgers, Henry and Rost from various injuries make life a lot easier for head coach Hans Backe.
Having a fully fit Rodgers back for the stretch run is a huge boost as he is the sort of player that provides the inspiration for his teammates to play more confidently when he’s in the lineup. If not for time missed due to plantar fasciitis, Rodgers would have been near the top of the MLS scoring leaders as he was setting a torrid pace earlier this season.
Adding Rodgers along with to Henry’s inimitable ability, the experienced Rost and Marquez as well as Solli’s ability to the make lung-bursting runs down the right side of the pitch gives the Red Bulls the look of a well-rounded squad.
Suddenly, things are looking up for a club that currently sits in the final MLS Wild Card position. New York edge the Portland Timbers by goal differential and the Timbers are next to visit Red Bull Area on Saturday. With every point crucial, the Red Bulls want to keep the positive momentum going with three points tonight against Real Salt Lake.
Everything is falling into place at the right time for New York who when equipped with a healthy squad are capable of playing some outstanding football. It’s time that the Red Bulls deliver on their potential and lock down a playoff place in the coming matches.
Red Bulls fans – are you confident in your club’s chances of making the playoffs? Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.