UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — In the eyes of fans, this past weekend’s Emirates Cup certainly ranks behind the MLS Cup, the Supporters' Shield and the US Open Cup in terms of prestige and importance. But lifting the hardware after their 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Sunday afternoon may have been just the thing the team needed.
The Red Bulls have won just once in their last nine league games and were in need of a confidence boost after falling to third place in the Eastern Conference. New York got that infusion of backbone after beating Paris St. Germain 1-0 on Saturday and then fighting back Arsenal’s offensive onslaught on Sunday for a dramatic draw.
“It should be a boost confidence-wise for the rest of the season,” head coach Hans Backe said of the trophy’s effect on the club.
The level of competition in London last weekend was high, with the Red Bulls playing two of the top teams in European soccer. New York now face a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium to play Real salt Lake on Saturday night (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online) and are hoping to carry over the strong results against European competition into their MLS schedule.
“It’s nice to pick up some extra confidence, we defended really well,” right back Jan Gunnar Solli said. “We didn’t play great soccer but we got good results.”
The Red Bulls have been one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in the league this year and it is not uncommon for New York to hold possession for 60 percent of the match. But the pragmatic style that New York played at the Emirates against two of Europe’s top teams got results. With the push for the playoffs now in full swing, the club might need to gut out some performances to get points.
Defender Tim Ream called the Emirates Cup “semi-legitimate” but he sees a definite impact on the team’s recently battered and bruised ego.
“For the team, it’s not do-or-die as a league game,” Ream said. “Hopefully, this kick-starts us for the rest of the season.”
There are clear positives from the Emirates experience as a whole: Winning the cup is clearly a boost to the team. But to read more into the results against teams in preseason, even quality opposition, might be taking it too far.
“It means a lot, but don’t get it twisted,” forward Thierry Henry said. “It’s done.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer