FRISCO, Teas. – Sunday's 2-1 loss at FC Dallas in the 2012 season opener left one major question mark for the New York Red Bulls: Can the Juan Agudelo-Thierry Henry pairing work at forward?
Agudelo is not convinced.
“I feel it’s tough being by myself at times because Henry likes to check in the middle,” Agudelo told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “I felt like it was great when there were actually two forwards and Henry was able to check in the middle.
“I really enjoy having Henry as a sort of a midfield playmaker. That’s what he enjoys and I think that’s his best qualities. But when I have somebody next to me like [Kenny] Cooper, I think it helps us stretch the back line.”
WATCH: Henry's blunt assessment of opening loss
Cooper’s introduction in the 63rd minute allowed New York to get balls in behind the FC Dallas back line, something that the Red Bulls had failed to do up to that point. New York’s 78th-minute goal came on a run Cooper made behind the FCD defenders onto a pinpoint Henry feed.
Backe recognizes that Cooper brought a different look to the attack.
“[Cooper] is a little bit more of a striker who runs the channels,” Backe said during his postgame press conference. “He stretches the teams a little bit more than Thierry and Agudelo does. But it probably helps us a little bit to stretch them to get even better possession the last third.”
The Red Bulls’ Swedish manager praised Cooper’s attitude and energy even after the striker learned he would be a bench player in the return to the city and stadium he called home for nearly four seasons.
The move to start Agudelo instead of Cooper, who had been a regular during preseason, even surprised Agudelo, who was recently with US Olympic camp and will rejoin the US Under-23s for CONCACAF qualifying at the end of this month.
“A little surprised because I haven’t been with the team lately with preseason being with the national team for the majority of preseason,” Agudelo said. “But I do feel I performed well in the training sessions prior to this game. Just lucky to get the playing chance.”
As for Henry, the Frenchman was in no mood to elaborate on the result at FC Dallas Stadium. His answers were brief and only provided insight into his general mood.
So how do the Red Bulls bounce back?
“Win games,” Henry said. “And score more goals than the opponent.”
The Red Bulls may need Agudelo, Henry and Cooper all on the field at the same time to do it.