MLS: Backe Bullish On New York’s Form

Written by Ian Thomson
Hans Backe's tactical changes paid off for New York Red Bulls at Crew Stadium (Photo: Ian Thomson)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – New York Red Bulls Head Coach Hans Backe had plenty to smile about following his side’s 4-1 dismantling of Columbus Crew Saturday – a win that lifted New York into clear second place in the Eastern Conference.

While Colorado Rapids and Montreal Impact gifted a flurry of goals at Red Bull Arena in the past two weeks, this third successive win owed much to the Red Bulls’ vastly improved form.

“The first 60 minutes was one of the best we’ve done,” Backe told reporters shortly after the game. “We were very effective when we got the chances.

“We dropped off a little bit. I don’t think any team can perform over 90 minutes the way we did the first 60,” Backe said. “Once again scoring four goals and our strikers scoring all of them is phenomenal.

Two goals apiece from Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper kept them first and second-equal in the goalscoring chart. Backe has been vocal in his desire to see new signing Cooper using his 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound forward to be more aggressive in the penalty area. The former F.C. Dallas and Portland Timbers striker responded by shrugging off Columbus defender Eric Gehrig to score New York’s first goal Saturday. Backe is still looking for more.

“He’s a massive guy, strong, tall, but I feel he’s still too nice,” Backe told The Soccer Observer. “If he starts using his body more he will be a handful for every team.”

Cooper, for the record, has already netted six times in 342 minutes of play this year – a strike rate of one goal every 57 minutes.

Another area of delight for Backe was the way his squad coped with injuries to two key players.

“The depth is much better comparing to last year,” Backe told The Soccer Observer. “We had Wilman Conde and Teemu Tainio out today. To go on the road and win like this is great and good for the future.”

The Red Bulls’ wide players have been strangely impotent so far this year. The Swede responded by replacing left-midfielder Joel Lindpere with Mehdi Ballouchy, allowing Dax McCarty and Dane Richards to push forward more often as Ballouchy drifted into the center of midfield to provide defensive cover alongside Rafael Marquez.

Richards was involved in the build-up to New York’s second goal Saturday. His shot on 13 minutes looped off Gehrig and onto the head of Cooper. Lindpere came off the bench late in the game to set up Henry for the game’s final goal on 90 minutes.

“Last year we had, I think, 14 goals from the wide players,” Backe told The Soccer Observer. “That’s the thing we probably have to improve, to have an end product.”

Full-backs Roy Miller and Jan Gunnar Solli also earned praise from Backe as their confidence to surge forward returned.

“We haven’t changed much from last year the way we like to get our full-backs involved in the attacking game,” Backe told The Soccer Observer. “I said at half-time that Roy could attack more to put pressure on Columbus. But they both probably had their best game today attacking wise.”