UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls are looking to avenge last year’s 1-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Last year’s loss was arguably one of New York’s worst performances of the campaign — outside of a few minutes in the second half, the Red Bulls never looked dangerous, as the then-champions held the majority of possession and created the better chances.
With another match in Utah looming, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe praised Real Salt Lake as one of the league’s best teams and credits the squad’s continuity for their sustained success, even through the bumps and bruises of an unforgiving MLS regular season.
“It’s a team that’s played almost three years together,” Backe said. “I think that they can survive two to three injuries and be OK.”
One big injury that could seriously affect Real Salt Lake’s chances on Saturday night is the continued absence of Jámison Olave. The powerful Colombian center back was injured in the first half of the MLS All-Star Game and will be out against the Red Bulls. Since the injury, RSL have sustained two 2-0 losses in a row to the Columbus Crew and Sporting KC.
“They don’t concede a lot of goals,” forward Thierry Henry said. “I think that missing Olave hurts them a lot.”
Backe noted that Saturday’s opponent “likes to control the ball,” a style that may hinder a Red Bulls team that frequently holds the ball for 60 percent of the game.
There is a significant measure of respect when the Red Bulls talk about the Claret-and-Cobalt. When asked which teams he considers the best in the league, Backe has been placing RSL in the top three for the last year. Defender Rafa Márquez calls them “certainly one of the best clubs in MLS.”
And New York are aware that Real Salt Lake are among the most difficult teams in the league at home over the past three seasons. In what’s considered an off year in Utah, the club has still compiled a 7-2-3 record at Rio Tinto.
“It’s not an easy place to go,” Henry said. “They do have a bit of an attitude.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer