UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry says that the San Jose Earthquakes will be "playing for their lives" on Thursday night for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes). Needless to say, the away team is expected to come out firing on all cylinders.
Last weekend’s 1-0 win over the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium gives the Red Bulls a little breathing room heading into the second leg of the playoff series. It also means that there will be a lot of pressure on New York, literally. With San Jose needing the win, RBNY are expecting the visitors to come out looking to get an early goal, pressing the Red Bulls early and often.
Head coach Hans Backe has been in this situation before, playing two-leg elimination series while coaching in Europe. He recalls horror stories of his clubs getting a result in the away fixture and then falling apart in the home leg. He anticipates San Jose pressing early, much like they did last Saturday night.
[inline_node:322261]“We handled it very well, the direct way with them,” Backe said about the first leg. “The way we handled it was excellent, they had two, three chances.”
A compact shape and tight man-marking allowed the Red Bulls to limit a San Jose attack that boasts Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and former Barcelona and Hull City midfielder Geovanni.
Carlos Mendes had perhaps his best game of the season, consistently making strong tackles and impeccable decisions. Tim Ream to his left was dominant in the air and sure in his distribution.
Now for New York, it becomes a matter of finishing the task they started in the first leg. And for that, they need concentration and effort for 90 minutes. Backe has been preaching to the team all week that they should view this game as if they were at halftime – now they need to get the job done.
“No one gets away with 95 percent focus in the playoffs,” Backe said. “It has to be 100 percent.”
New York’s Rafa Márquez has played in his fair share of two-leg matches while with Monaco and most recently in the Champions League with Barcelona. He said the team understands that despite the road win and the dominating performance last weekend, the job is only half done.
“The focus and concentration, that is most important,” Márquez said. “I don’t think anything else [matters] because we have lots of quality.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012
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