UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Hans Backe has never defeated Real Salt Lake since being appointed head coach of the New York Red Bulls in 2010. He’s hoping that changes this weekend.
Having lost to FC Dallas in Week 1, the Red Bulls (0-1-0) are aiming to bounce back on the road on Saturday night against a Real Salt Lake side that is 3-0-1 against New York dating back to 2010.
“Against Salt Lake, it’s about to start well, defend well, find your shape and play more aggressive than we have done,” Backe told reporters following Wednesday’s training session. “We just need to play tougher.”
Making matters more difficult is the fact that RSL are brimming with confidence after rallying late to defeat the reigning champion LA Galaxy 3-1 at the Home Depot Center this past weekend.
“I know what we need to stop, but if we can do it, I don’t know,” said Backe. “But we know Salt Lake very well, how they play. We’ll see. We trained a little bit today and what we do with the last two sessions and try to find some different options than we have used before.”
The Red Bulls, who lost twice to RSL in the preseason, will fly to Salt Lake City following Thursday's afternoon training session.
Backe undecided on reserve forwards
With Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper projected to start on Saturday, New York won’t have a known striker commodity on their bench against RSL. Juan Agudelo is currently with the US Olympic qualifying team in Nasvhille, Tenn., leaving Backe to choose from his lesser-known forwards for the gameday roster.
“I haven’t looked at the roster so far, we’ll do it later today,” said Backe. “But of course, we have Thierry, Kenny, Corey Hertzog, Jhonny Arteaga. I think a guy that’s been playing well in our preseason [and] in training sessions, Jose Angulo, probably needs a little more time to get top fit.”
Conde return imminent?
Center back Wilman Conde is still recovering from the thigh injury he sustained during the preseason, but Backe believes the Colombian defender could return to training as soon as next week.
“Wilman, he is doing a lot of strength and things like that,” said Backe. “I hope, normally, he should be able to start training with the team on Monday.”
If that is the case, Conde could be available for selection in the Red Bulls’ home opener on March 25.
“Perhaps he will be back for the Colorado game and then we will have a strong side, definitely,” said Backe.
Rodgers still in limbo
If you were hoping to hear something substantial on Luke Rodgers’ troublesome visa situation, there isn’t much of an update.
“I don’t know anything about Luke, to be fair,” said Backe. “Hopefully something comes up this week.”
A decision on Rodgers’ situation was expected to come last week, but his status with the club remains in limbo after no decision was made.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.