HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls’ 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo last week may have been as flat a performance as the Red Bulls have put forth all season, but it also looks to have served as a wake-up call.
New York bounced back from their dismal outing in the previous Friday’s defeat in Houston by beating the Dynamo 2-0 on Friday night at Red Bull Arena, a result that returned the Red Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The strong performance may not have come, however, had the Red Bulls not suffered that disappointing defeat last week that was so thoroughly discussed and criticized by fans, media and players alike.
“This was probably one of the best weeks of training we’ve ever had,” midfielder Dax McCarty told MLSsoccer.com. “It was physical, guys were kicking each other but in a good way. That sets the tone for the week.
HIGHLIGHTS: NY 2, HOU 0
“It comes from our main guys. It comes from Rafa [Márquez], Tim [Cahill] and Thierry [Henry]. They really set the tone in training, they made it hard on guys, and they made sure that nothing was easy. You have to train how you play. It showed tonight in the way that we played.”
It certainly did. The Red Bulls were the more dominant side for much of their win on Friday night, and showed more physicality than they had in recent weeks. Right back Connor Lade relied on aggressively marking Macoumba Kandji, one of the stars from last week’s game, which proved substantially more effective than the lackadaisical approach New York demonstrated last week -- and which prompted an outburst from Thierry Henry in the press.
That setback may serve as a turning point for the Red Bulls, who responded to the much-criticized loss with several intense training sessions. In fact, during one of the practices, trialist Lloyd Sam, Jan Gunnar Solli and Victor Pálsson found themselves arguing with one another for a prolonged period despite being on the same team in a small-sided game of five-on-five.
“It was kind of spicy at times, but hey, there’s never smoke without fire,” said Henry. “Look at how we played today. Won every single ball, arguing with everybody, and sometimes you need to have that, but it was still kind of in the right way. Nothing was dirty.”
Henry added that type of intensity and mentality need to be carried over to road games as well as for the rest of the season, especially if New York wants to come away with a trophy this year.
“If you want to win the league, I’ve played in some teams where everybody thought Patrick Vieira was a dirty boy,” said Henry. “But at the end, when we were lifting the cup, or not, it didn’t matter.
“No one liked playing against Patrick Vieira for a reason, because he was kicking you off the park. But that’s the way it is. I’m not having a go, I’m just saying tonight nothing was raised, no elbow, no nothing, but we worked kind of hard and that’s how you have to play if you want to win games.”
Still, Henry was not all about praising the night’s performance. He was actually quite critical of it, saying that Houston showed more fight at Red Bull Arena in their defeat than New York did last week at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“Whenever we lose, we lose,” said Henry. “It’s not like we missed one, they scored, we missed another one, they scored. Then you can say, ‘We’re kind of unlucky.’ Houston can say they're unlucky tonight, although we missed some goals tonight. But the way they played, you can say that maybe they didn’t deserve to lose 2-0.
“I’ll take it, but I don’t recall having four, five opportunities at their place, so for me, they’re still ahead of us. I know we’re ahead of them in terms of points, but in terms of team they’re ahead of us.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.