Johnston not willing to lose vs. D.C.

A day after telling the New York Red Bulls he believed he had coached his last training session, Mo Johnston was back at Giants Stadium on Friday and is, for now, still in charge of the team.

He will be on the sideline for Saturday's clash with D.C. United but after that his future with the organization appears to be murky. Not that Johnston is worried about that.

"I'm very strong. I won't be fazed at me being screamed at by 70,000 at Ibrox Park, which I have in the past when I played for Rangers and Celtic," he said after Friday's training session.

"Will I be fazed by the fans here screaming and shouting for my head? No. Will I be fazed by Red Bull coming in? No, because at the end of the day I'm doing a good enough job, I'm happy with myself. Am I excited for this team? Yes. Is this team where it needs to be? No. I needed changes, I told you this and I want to keep making changes until such notice."

After Alexi Lalas left Monday for the Los Angeles Galaxy, media rumors began to swirl that Johnston would be next out. According to Tony Meola, Johnston told his team after Thursday morning's training session that he would likely be out.

"We left not knowing what was in store for today," he said. "It would have been total mayhem."

But in a surprising turn of events, Red Bull issued a statement late Thursday afternoon detailing part of the organization's restructuring. In addition to Marc De Grandpre being named the club's managing director, Johnston was retained as head coach.

Johnston said the turbulence of the week has taken its toll on his team and has affected the team's focus on D.C. United.

"I'm not going to sit behind the big table and think everything's rosy because it's not," Johnston said. "I'm looking forward to Saturday's game. I'm going to tell you something, if we lose 5-0, I'm not going to apologize. I'm going to apologize to my team because they're the ones who have been put through it."

The training during the week has been subpar and Johnston's been asked questions about the future of the club he said he doesn't have the answers for.

"I'll be honest with you. I've got a World Cup winner in there looking like he's received bad news," Johnston said of Youri Djorkaeff. "I've got guys who I brought to this team because they wanted to play for me asking me the same question."

According to Meola, Friday's training was the best of the week, perhaps not a coincidence.

"Everyone seemed more at ease, seemed more comfortable," he said.

Meola, who is listed as questionable with a lower back strain but said he would play Saturday, is hoping the focus can return to the field.

"We have to start concentrating on soccer and the only way we can do that is if we know who our coach is going to be," he said. "Hopefully we're at that point right now."

Joining Meola as questionable is Djorkaeff (right knee contusion) and Jeff Parke (left hamstring strain), while Mike Magee has been upgraded to questionable with a left ankle sprain. Mark Lisi remains out, recovering from groin surgery.

The combination of a week of uncertainty and the injuries doesn't appear to bode well for a Red Bulls team that has opened the season with three draws against a United side that has secured seven of a possible nine points out of its first three games.

But Johnston promised a fight.

"I'm not going to lose tomorrow. I'm telling you that right now. I'm not going to lose," he said. "And if we do, I'm not going to mince my words."

He added: "I ain't giving up until the final breath is over here. I'm not giving up. I wasn't like that as a player and I'm not going to be like that as a coach. I'm not a quitter. Someone tells me it's over, then it's over."

Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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