HARRISON, N.J. – Tim Cahill and Teemu Tainio were impressive as a central midfield tandem in their first match together against Tottenham Hotspur in Tuesday's friendly. And that, combined with Dax McCarty’s suspension, seems to have been enough to convince New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe that they are ready to start in the all-important Eastern Conference match against the Houston Dynamo.
Even if they both can’t go the distance.
Speaking to media after New York’s training session inside a hot Red Bull Arena on Thursday morning, Backe indicated that both Cahill and Tainio would start against Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com). But he admitted that it is unlikely that both make it to the end of the match between the top two teams in the East given the players’ recent returns to action.
“Probably have to switch them at halftime or after 60 minutes, but it will not be 90,” said Backe. “But we look at the first half of [the 2-1 friendly loss to Tottenham], very strong shape-wise.”
Backe talkes Ballouchy, Ogunbiyi
Aside from playing a friendly against Spurs, the Red Bulls were also busy making a pair of personnel moves on Tuesday. New York shipped away midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy to the San Jose Earthquakes while also signing defender Babajide Ogunbiyi more than three years after drafting him.
Backe touched on both deals, and he said Ballouchy became surplus to requirements after the Red Bulls’ stacked midfield became deeper in recent weeks.
“With Tim coming in, with Teemu coming back, hopefully he stays fit, and that means Mehdi has been a top professional for us and San Jose wanted him,” said Backe. “Hopefully, he gets more minutes.”
As for the move to sign the 25-year-old Ogunbiyi, Backe said it came about after he had heard some positive things from Denmark about the center back. He also labeled the hulking Ogunbiyi as “one for the future.”
“I haven’t seen him that much,” said Backe. “He’ been playing in Denmark. I’ve only been talking to some of the coaches in Denmark. … But the guys in Denmark said that he had done quite well. He did not play in the Premiership but did well in [the second tier] and the recommendation was that he could probably be a guy playing in Denmark in the first division and that’s good enough for me.”
One of the biggest news items from Thursday was one about which the Red Bulls would not talk.
The club confirmed that president of business operations Chris Heck was relieved of his duties on Thursday morning, but they would not comment further on the matter.
Heck joined the Red Bulls in the summer of 2011 but had been under scrutiny for the past several months from a fan base that did not see eye to eye with his approach for the club.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.