Going into the second-leg of their playoff series against the Galaxy on Thursday night, the Red Bulls face a daunting task against the Supporters' Shield winners, who are unbeaten at home this season.
LA use the wide dimensions of the Home Depot Center to good effect, as it’s one of the largest fields in the league. It suits their style, as they spray balls wide and look to switch the point of attack whenever possible.
“The size of the field has a lot to do with it; it’s probably the biggest field in the league,” Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty said. "They like to use the width to their advantage."
“They have very dangerous forwards in the box; they obviously are very talented on the outside of their field,” McCarty added. “They’re one of the better teams in the league getting wide and obviously with Beckham with his service, getting balls in the box.”
A big part of the Galaxy’s home success has been the play of David Beckham, perhaps the best crosser and set-piece taker in the league. LA’s No. 23 has the ability to drop balls in behind the back line, as he did on Sunday for Mike Magee’s 15th-minute goal against New York. Landon Donovan can also play the long diagonal balls that stretch back lines, freeing up space for runners to get into the box.
“They use all that space to their advantage because they have guys that make really smart runs, not necessarily the fastest guys but guys that know where to go on the field,” McCarty said. “Obviously with Beckham and Landon, guys who are very good at finding the runners. They’ve created a little bit of a fortress at home.”
Yet in early May, New York got a 1-1 tie at the Home Depot Center and there was a general sense from the team that despite their loss on Sunday, they outplayed the Galaxy. Head coach Hans Backe doesn’t see the Home Depot Center as anything terribly intimidating and certainly not the “fortress” which McCarty referenced. In fact, he cites the Red Bulls win last year against the Galaxy and tie nearly six months ago as a confidence boost and that the trip is nothing special at all.
“Not tougher than playing Kansas City away, not at all,” Backe said. “We tied the game this year, we won last year. We’ve done great games in LA against them. They’ve been good football games. It’s no different than playing Kansas or any other place away.”