UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe has repeatedly talked this season about the team’s starting pointing needing to be on the defensive side, and Thierry Henry agrees.
A day before the Red Bulls get a shot at redemption at home against the Houston Dynamo after losing to them 2-0 last Friday, Henry made a point of singling out New York’s recent run of poor performances on the road. And he also indicated that improved defending is key in helping turn around that disturbing trend, even if he did so with a bit of hyperbole.
“You can’t go out against Houston and concede a goal after 20 seconds,” Henry told reporters. “That killed everything that we had planned, then we had to run after the game and you can’t give that much room to [Macoumba] Kandji.
“You can’t let him control the ball on his chest, step on it, look if someone was in the stand, take a coffee, turn, call his family, no one was answering, he left a message and then say, 'Oh, I might cross the ball.' He crossed it and they scored. You can’t win a game when you play like that. I’m not attacking anyone, but that was just a fact.”
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Henry further elaborated on Kandji being given too much time and space on the ball, saying that the overall defensive display against the speedy forward was too pedestrian. And that will need to change for the Red Bulls if they are to beat the Eastern Conference leaders in a pivotal rematch on Friday night at Red Bull Arena (8 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“The time he had on the ball, if you have a bit of talent, again, I’m not attacking anybody, but watch how he was getting the ball,” said Henry. “Chesting it, going, 20,000 step-overs, on the spot, nobody smashed him once, like he was playing against his friends.
“I have to say going 1-0 down after 20 seconds didn’t help, but we have to defend better than that. It’s common sense. You don’t let a guy put his hand on your chest and put his foot on the ball and look at you in the eyes and tell you a bedtime story.”
“If Kandji was a killer, he would have scored six goals or he might well have finished the top goal-scorer of the league of that game if he wanted to,” Henry added. “I’m just saying the truth. Watch every game that we play away from home.”
Last week’s loss to the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium was not the only game Henry pointed out when addressing New York’s road woes. The Designated Player also touched on the Red Bulls’ win over the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium earlier in the season as a match that gave him warning signs.
“If [Emilio] Rentería was in tune that day, he would have scored three or four at the beginning of the second half,” said Henry. “I don’t know if you remember, but I do. And I knew at the time that we were getting away with it. You’re not going to get away with it every time by giving chance to a team away from home and we’re not getting away with it anymore.”
Henry did not have a complete answer as to why the Red Bulls are such a different team at home, where they are undefeated this year. But he did attribute part of New York’s problems to the constant changes across the back line.
“We all know that a back four should have games together. It’s a unit,” said Henry. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s also because of injuries and people not being well. But one day it’s Heath [Pearce] playing right back, another day he’s playing center back. Another day it’s Connor [Lade] playing right back, another day Connor plays left back. … No excuses at the end of the day, but I’m sure it didn’t help.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.