New York striker Luke Rodgers remains bullish ahead of his side's Western Conference Semifinal second leg matchup against the LA Galaxy on Thursday at the Home Depot Center (11pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TSN2; live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
The Birmingham, England, native was not shy in voicing his opinions when asked in a conference call on Wednesday about comments from Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who called New York "the cheapest team they have played against."
“In my eyes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Rodgers said. “A lot of their players were doing the same thing. One of our players [Roy Miller] has a big gash in his leg from Beckham’s tackle, but no one’s complaining about it on our side.”
The diminutive Red Bulls striker has had run-ins with LA in the past, publicly speaking out against Donovan after the two teams battled to 1-1 tie in Carson, Calif., on May. 7. Rodgers accused Donovan of talking too much and said it was like having “two referees on the pitch.” Donovan responded by posting a tweet that read, “I’m confused. Who is Luke Rodgers?”
The rivalry between the two MLS powerhouses was cranked up another notch after Sunday’s fiery clash – and a brief postmatch scuffle – at Red Bull Arena. Yet Rodgers was defiant that the Red Bulls are not a dirty team and said they are fuelled by a burning desire to succeed.
“We’re not a cheap team,” said the Englishman. “We’ve already beat LA once. If calling a team cheap is the will to win, and tackling and putting everything into winning the game, then I don’t call it a cheap team. I call it a winning team.”
During Sunday's game, Rodgers was involved in another heated exchange with an LA player, this time goalkeeper Josh Saunders. The pair collided at the net as Saunders saved a ball Rodgers was chasing, and New York’s No. 9 revealed exactly what was said between the two players.
“I got into an argument with their goalkeeper and he was saying, ‘You're in my country now.’ I found that funny, by the way,” Rodgers said. “It’s part of the game, it’s part of football. I don’t understand why everyone is complaining.”
New York’s second top goal scorer with nine goals this season, Rodgers pointed to how successful his side has been in pressure situations this year, as the two wins away from home against FC Dallas prove their credentials to pull out a result when needed.
“When our backs are up against the wall, we do produce,” Rodgers said. “It will be the same Thursday. Who would have thought we’d go to Dallas and win 2-0 at their place and go to Dallas again at their place and win 1-0. They are a great team.”
Rodgers also commented on the melee that ensued after the first leg against LA, which saw Rafa Márquez and Juninho sent off and subsequently suspended from the second leg. The forward cited the heated atmosphere as two giants wanting to reach the next round.
“We’re both big teams and we want to win,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of pride there and no one wants to lose. People were upset that we lost, and I thought we were the better team.”
Rodgers believes New York have the quality to advance.
“It’s a playoff game and I expect Thursday to be exactly the same. We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain," he said. "I know a lot of our players are quietly confident we’re going to win.”