Patchwork Red Bulls have gameplan for Beckham, LA

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UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The defense is patchwork, the goalkeeper a rookie and the midfield being juggled to account for injuries and suspension.

That means the New York Red Bulls XI that take the pitch at Home Depot Center against the LA Galaxy on Saturday (8 pm ET; ESPN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com) don’t have much to draw on in terms of collective memory of an opponent. But they do have this: a preseason game in early March, which New York won, 2-1.

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That meeting two months ago has given right back Connor Lade and the rest of the Red Bulls a touchstone for dealing with the Galaxy in general, and midfielder David Beckham in particular.

“It was preseason, so it’s a different game,” Lade told MLSsoccer.com earlier in the week, “but I got the general idea of what he’s about: dropping back a bit, pinging those 60-yard balls and putting them on people’s foot. You just have to be aware of where he is and kind of be in your shape and ready to react.”

LA have had an underwhelming start to the season, but the Red Bulls’ star-studded foes are still capable of punishing any opponent given the embarrassment of riches they have on their team.

From Beckham to Landon Donovan to Robbie Keane, the Galaxy have an enviable cast of attacking talent that can light up a scoreboard on any given day. That’s without mentioning their head coach, Bruce Arena, who last year became the first person win the MLS Coach of the Year award three times.

The Red Bulls’ inexperienced backline are well aware of all that, and even though they’re brimming with confidence after recording the club’s first clean sheet of the season last weekend, they know a tough test lies ahead.

“They’ve got such a deep talent pool and such grizzled veterans that have been around World Cups, Champions League and all that,” said Lade. “You just have to be very tight and aware and we have to talk a lot and just bring in the same effort that we did [in the 1-0 win over New England], but try and be on the ball a bit more.”

Despite being without Designated Players Thierry Henry (injury) and Rafa Márquez (suspended), Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe does not plan on going into Los Angeles playing defensively in order to gain a draw – not when his defense played so well last weekend.

“We go on the road and I don’t think that many expect that much from us, and still I think we have the ability to surprise in that game,” said Backe. “It’s about minimizing mistakes and being as effective as possible. Then you can win these games on the road.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com

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