On a crisp Monday morning at Montclair State University, the New York Red Bulls held their training session, knowing that their opponent in the wild card playoff match would be FC Dallas.
For a good thirty minutes the Red Bulls had two to three squads playing keep-away and everyone had smiles on their faces. The players looked calm, relaxed and enjoyed themselves as they had a bit of fun before the real work begun.
“Today was our first best attacking pattern we had, we looked really, really sharp,” said Head Coach Hans Backe. “The pitch was a little bit bumpy and it could be a little frustrating to be precise in your attacking game, but the rhythm and the movement was phenomenal.”
After clinching the last playoff spot on Thursday, it took three days to find out that they would be traveling down to Texas. Even after their match ended against the Philadelphia Union, all the players wanted to play FC Dallas.
“I think it’s the best match up for us,” said Tim Ream. “We’ve played at Salt Lake and got it handed to us and played at Colorado with the same result as well, playing in elevation, so we think this is the best match up to extend our season.”
As everyone saw with the end of the regular season, FC Dallas had a dip in form during the second half of the season as they lost in the semi-finals of the US Open Cup and, despite a great start in the CONCACAF Champions League, sadly got eliminated in the final match of the group stage against Toronto FC.
But even though most of the starters were rested for the final game at San Jose, this is still considered a dangerous side to face down at Pizza Hut Park. “Everything impresses me about FC Dallas,” said Thierry Henry, “How they play football from the back, exciting players like Brek Shea and Jackson Goncalves — I’m not going to give all the names but they play hard.”
Shea has had an interesting season, but in previous years he has been reckless and couldn’t stop making silly decisions. But this season he has finally shown that he has matured and earned his national team call-up.
“He’s smarter on and off the ball. He’s finally figured out how to use his strength’s and skill to benefit him,” said Ream. “He has the tools and he finally realized that and look at where he is now with the national team.”
So it’s a travel day on Tuesday then another session before the New York Red Bulls get ready on Wednesday to play FC Dallas for the right to advance into the Conference semi-finals. In injury news, meanwhile, the Red Bulls could be without Luke Rodgers due to a swollen knee.