LONDON — The New York Red Bulls weren’t really expected to make much noise at the Emirates Cup this weekend. Even by their own admission, they didn’t think they could win the prestigious tournament.
But they did, much to the delight of head coach Hans Backe, who felt the victory could inject some life back into New York’s season.
“The players must take this momentum boost back with them,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com after the cup-clinching 1-1 tie against Arsenal. “I said to them yesterday anything could happen in this Emirates Cup. We could lose 6-0 both games and embarrass ourselves; but to pick up a 1-0 win yesterday and tie a game with Arsenal, even after only having 20 percent of possession, it shows that we can defend well and we will take that with us.”
Backe’s team defended admirably over the two games to return victorious with the silverware. German shot stopper Frank Rost has certainly racked up the frequent flyer miles since his recent transfer from the Bundesliga. But the Red Bull’s No. 1 showed no signs of fatigue on Saturday, putting in another inspired performance.
“That is my job,” said Rost told MLSsoccer.com. “I think yesterday Paris Saint-Germain underestimated us. Then they thought it is difficult to score against New York. Arsenal had the same problem today. It was a completely different game, but they forgot how to score against us today as well. “
Backe was certainly pleased with Rost’s performance in the duel with Arsenal and felt it helped his side find a foothold in the contest.
“Our goalie, Frank Rost, made two or three big saves in the first half that could have killed the game,” Backe said. “After that, Arsenal had half-chances but not really 100 percent chances.”
One of the reasons for Arsenal’s chances drying up in the second half was Backe’s switch to a more attacking formation after 55 minutes, when he brought on teenage forward Juan Agudelo for midfielder Teemu Tainio. Agudelo linked up well with fellow forward Thierry Henry and was thrilled to play a part in taking the Emirates Cup back to Red Bull Arena.
“To be honest, I don’t think any of us expected this,” Agudelo told MLSsoccer.com. “We came through with the tie here and did well to keep a 1-0 lead the first game.”
The promising Red Bulls Academy product also spoke of how impressed he was with the atmosphere at the Emirates as he soaked up his first appearance on English soil.
“This is where it’s at,” Agudelo said. “The crowd was unbelievable and I don’t want to leave here!”
When asked if he would want to return to play in Europe one day, Agudelo remained coy and instead called for the team to focus on success in the MLS Cup and the remainder of their MLS campaign.
“I would love to one day. But we will see,” the US national team youngster said. “This win gives us a lot of confidence. If we work together and stay compact at the back, then we can keep clean sheets and be successful towards the end of the season. Personally, I just want to help my team to reach the final of the MLS Cup. That is our goal now.”
You can follow Joe Prince-Wright on Twitter on @JPW8