CARSON, Calif. – The New York Red Bulls sent a message that rang loud and clear to the rest of the league on Friday night.
For all of manager Hans Backe’s attempts to downplay his team’s potential this year, New York’s dominating 2-0 victory at the Home Depot Center against the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy showed that the Red Bulls are a realistic contender for MLS Cup 2010 in Toronto.
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And it’s less about the result itself and more about how RBNY achieved it: with personality, poise and a confidence which fans were used to seeing from the Galaxy.
“I would say it is one of the best performances so far from this team,” Backe said after the match.
With the three points, the Red Bulls headed into Saturday in a tie with the Columbus Crew for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also only six points behind the Galaxy for the Supporters' Shield.
“Right now we’re going for it,” said Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul. “We’re going to try to win the Eastern Conference.”
Even without Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls’ game plan worked to perfection on Friday. They withstood an early rush from Los Angeles and then proceeded to dictate the match with a passing and possession game that entranced the Galaxy and frustrated the home team.
“They outplayed us,” Galaxy midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. “They controlled the ball. We couldn’t get to the ball. … They deserved to win, they were better than us.”
“Everyone on this team is super confident on the ball,” said Red Bulls defender Tim Ream. “You saw what we can do when we can keep the ball and possess and make the other team run. [The Galaxy] couldn’t do anything.”
Even when the Red Bulls lost the ball, they were quick to win it back with a collective team defense and immediate pressing that never allowed Los Angeles to get started on the night.
The Red Bulls were not surprised by their performance. They pointed to the fact that it's been nearly a month that New York has been dominating their opposition.
Now Backe will have his hands full, defusing the enthusiasm and title talk that will not only spread among New York fans but even in his own locker room.
“Galaxy has been the best team in the league so far and we came into their home and beat them 2-0,” said goal-scorer Dane Richards. “What can we say? The fans out there got to know that we want to go to the playoffs and we want to go all the way.”