UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Lost in the hubbub and shuffle that is the Thierry Henry craze, the Red Bulls quietly set about their daily preparations for Saturday night’s match against Columbus.
With a chance to overtake the Crew for sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, the battle between two of the best teams in the league has extra importance for the Red Bulls, who are looking to avenge a 3-1 home loss to Columbus in May.
“We had multiple chances in that game and we didn’t really capitalize on them,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “We had good chances and they scored on those that they had. That’s the mark of a good team [Columbus] when you don’t play your best and you come away with one point or even three.”
Backe confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that forward Salou Ibrahim will not be available to the team for the match.
Four things to watch for Saturday’s game:
1) No 4-5-1 Formation -- While it was tough to tell from practice what formation the team will utilize against Columbus, Backe indicated that a 4-5-1 formation would likely not be in the mix for the upcoming road match.
This most likely means that Juan Pablo Angel will partner with Dane Richards up top. Expect to see either Tony Tchani or Roy Miller out wide, although Jeremy Hall looked very sharp in practice this week. Macoumba Kandji has been practicing as a wide player over the past week and says he’s set to play 20 to 25 minutes off the bench.
Forward John Wolyniec was not in attendance for the previous two practice sessions, and Backe had no comment on the player’s absence.
2) Revenge Factor -- Joel Lindpere didn’t participate in the Columbus loss in May, the only regular-season game he has missed this season. Though an injury kept him out of that match, the midfielder still promised that revenge is coming and is hopeful of a good result in Columbus.
“If we go in there confident and work as a team, I think we can get a result and that’s what we expect to do,” Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com.
3) Gunning For Another Shutout -- The Red Bulls have conceded just two goals in the past five games, a stretch that rivals their start to the season, when they were one of the stingiest teams in the league.
The back four will likely remain unchanged. Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes should be paired centrally with Chris Albright and Danleigh Borman on the wings.
“We’re communicating really well,” Ream told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s been a good group effort by everyone back there.”
4) No Henry – On Saturday, Thierry Henry will travel to Columbus, but will not suit up or be available off the bench. There are some media interviews planned around his arrival in Ohio and Henry will be there to support his new teammates.
The forward told reporters that he had originally hoped to take the field for Saturday’s game, but is not fit enough after a two- to three-week break from soccer.
Backe said that Henry should play 45 minutes in each of the two upcoming friendly matches against Tottenham and Manchester City, and Henry said he hopes to make his debut in MLS league play in August against Houston.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.