HANOVER, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls are cognizant of the fact that they conceded four goals in their season opener last weekend, but the club is not all that concerned about its defense heading into Saturday’s home opener against the Colorado Rapids (4 pm ET; Univision Dep.).
The Red Bulls are entering the match in need of a much better defensive outing after suffering a surprising 4-1 defeat in Vancouver last Saturday, and they are confident they will be able to put one together against a visiting Colorado team that had a bye in Week 1.
Part of the reason for that is because defensive anchor Jamison Olave will be back in the starting lineup. New York held Olave (and star striker Thierry Henry) out of the season opener as a precaution because of the turf field at BC Place, but the Colombian center back is healthy and should strengthen a back line that last week was made up of four players who were largely unfamiliar with one another.
“I’m not worried about [the chemistry] at all,” Petke told reporters after Friday’s practice. “I think we have players who have been around the block. Continuity, while I know is a good word to use and people rave about it, but at the end of the day [the players] all know their job and it doesn’t matter who’s in there. They play together in practice every week, so it really isn’t an issue.”
Petke added that the defensive issues were not just a result of the back four’s lapses, and that was a notion that both Henry and fellow Designated Player Tim Cahill echoed when meeting with media.
“You have to defend better as a team. I said it so many times,” said Henry. “When you go forward, it’s the same thing. It’s not only the forwards [that have to attack]. You have to play better to go forward as a team and the same way when you defend, and it starts with us, the strikers, most of the time. … You have to play better as a team. It can’t only be the four guys at the back and the goalkeeper and the holding midfielder. We have to put an effort in and that’s up to all of us.”
Another benefit for Petke’s side is that Roy Miller is back and available to start. Miller was in uniform and came off the bench against the Whitecaps, but the Costa Rican starting in his usual left back role was always ambitious given that he had played internationally just days before.
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One defender whose availability for the Rapids game is a bit unclear is Spanish center back Armando, who said earlier this week he was dealing with some discomfort in his left knee after getting tangled up with Darren Mattocks in last Saturday’s match.
“I had the bad luck of having it happen on an artificial turf,” Armando told MLSsoccer.com. “My leg didn’t get to turn completely [when I planted], and I’ve been diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain. It hurts a little bit, but I still have the desire to play.”
Whether it’s Armando or Ibrahim Sekagya starting next to Olave in central defense, New York are plenty convinced that a repeat showing of last week’s outing will not happen in front of their home fans at Red Bull Arena.
“I think there will be a big difference tomorrow,” said Cahill. “The whole setup will be different and also our mindset.”