After last weekend’s disheartening 3-2 home loss to Chivas USA, the Red Bulls spent all week rebuilding their psyche. This is, after all, a star-studded New York team that is expected to perform better at home than was evidenced last Sunday.
Then came the 2-2 tie this past Saturday night in Houston. A point on the road is a good result, and it helped shed light on this year’s Red Bulls team.
The Monday Gaffer looks at the themes from the draw at Robertson Stadium:
1. The Bounceback Kids
Playing in a hot and humid Houston and without star striker Thierry Henry, who was shelved with a knee injury, the Red Bulls battled their way against a very good Dynamo side. Most impressive was the Red Bulls’ attitude and team spirit in bouncing back from last week’s sorry loss. The fact that New York came out and played a team game in a hostile environment was a good sign for the club.
“[We] played a decent game compared to the Chivas game,” head coach Hans Backe said. “We kept the ball better, we had better possession. We didn’t panic when we went 2-1 down, we still tried to play. I think overall, it was a pretty good game.”
2. No Longer a Marked Man
Since his arrival last August, Rafa Márquez has been automatic as the Red Bulls set-piece taker. It was a given that the Mexican international would take corner kicks and free kicks, but the defender’s form on dead-ball situations dipped severely this year. The Red Bulls had scored just once off a set piece entering the weekend, and Márquez even missed a penalty kick earlier this month.
The result after Backe changed things up? On Saturday, Joel Lindpere and Dwayne De Rosario split the duties, with Lindpere assisting on a Mehdi Ballouchy header off a corner kick before stoppage time. A definite improvement.
3. Goalkeeper Controversy
It came as a surprise to most, but Greg Sutton replaced Bouna Coundoul in goal for the Red Bulls against Houston. Sutton, who began the season as the club’s starter before being sidelined with a concussion, did well in his return to the starting XI. Since late last summer, his form in training has been at a very high level and he’s playing with confidence.
“I’m just glad to be back and playing,” Sutton told MLSsoccer.com. "It’s been a long road, but I want to show what I can do now."
4. They Get the Point
Given the loss last weekend, the Red Bulls certainly needed a turnaround. The Houston game, which begins a stretch of three games in eight days, is also significant because the team slowly begins to lose a chunk of its starting lineup.
Dane Richards has already joined Jamaica for the Gold Cup; Márquez (Mexico), De Rosario (Canada), Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo (United States) have all been called up, as well. Getting points before the roster is gutted by international absences is important, and the Saturday result goes a long way in building confidence for New York.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer