photo by Danissa Alvarado/Soccer By Ives
By FRANCO PANIZO
From Mike Petke and Thierry Henry’s heated exchange in practice to the dramatic come-from-behind win over Real Salt Lake, many moments have been discussed as the turning point in the New York Red Bulls’ Supporters’ Shield-winning season.
One such moment that multiple Red Bulls players mentioned after Sunday: last month’s draw in Seattle.
The 1-1 tie at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 29 came up on a few occasions during the Red Bulls players’ interviews following the 5-2 home victory over the Chicago that gave New York the first piece of hardware in its 18 years of existence, and the main reason why was because of how much confidence it instilled in the club.
The Red Bulls entered that road game with a depleted roster (starters Thierry Henry, Jamison Olave and Bradley Wright-Phillips had all been ruled out) and few gave them and rookie head coach Mike Petke a chance against an in-form Sounders team that looked as good a bet as any to finish atop the overall league standings. But New York was full of self-belief and valiantly managed to grab a point out of the match, keeping its undefeated run going and beginning the Sounders’ surprising free fall.
“Seattle was the gamebreaker,” said midfielder Tim Cahill, who scored the equalizer in the second half of that rainy game in Seattle. “We destroyed their season and their belief and teams went there knowing that they can get results off them at their place and we just went onto bigger and better things because (we were) fearless.”
Midfielder Lloyd Sam added to that sentiment when asked about Cahill’s heroic performances this year, saying that the result vs. the Sounders indeed helped to set the tone for the Red Bulls late-season run and Seattle’s winless skid at the end of the campaign.
“Could you imagine if we didn’t draw that game? Seattle might have gone on and gotten three points,” said Sam. “Then their wheels fell off after that in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.”
No, that draw against the Sounders may not have been as vital as the dust-up between Petke and Henry that has spurred the Red Bulls to their current eight-game unbeaten streak. But it was a key moment for the club and one that should not be forgotten as they try and make a push for their first MLS Cup trophy.
Here are more notes from Red Bulls camp:
HENRY CREDITS SUCCESS TO TEAM EFFORT
Thierry Henry was sitting in his locker, fielding questions from the dozens of media members on Sunday when he was inevitably asked what was the biggest difference between the 2013 Red Bulls that ended the trophy-less drought and ones of years past.
Henry’s answer? The team finally got contributions from everybody.
“Everyone had to step up at one point and we did that,” said Henry. “(Jamison) Olave was scoring goals at the very beginning and you were like, ‘What?’, and then suddenly I started to score a bit and then Lloyd came at the end and Tim finished the season in an amazing way. Luis (Robles’ performances), forget about it.
“The team performed, and I’m not having a go at anybody, but last year for example if Kenny Cooper didn’t score or I didn’t score then it would have been game over. The years before, if Luke Rodgers or me are not scoring then it would’ve been over. Sometimes I can have an off day and Tim is taking control of the game or Lloyd in Kansas City or Dax (McCarty) scoring the winner against Salt Lake.
“The team performed this year as a team.”
ROBLES REMINISCES, BECOMES EVEN MORE GRATEFUL TO RED BULLS
A few hours before kickoff on Sunday, Luis Robles sat in his car with his wife reflecting on his career. He remembered the trying times in Germany and how he thought his career was over in 2012 before New York signed him as a cheap midseason acquisition.
All of that made him even more grateful than he already was to the club, and he proceeded to enjoying a sturdy outing in what he knew was his 40th game as a member of the Red Bulls.
“Fifteen months ago, I really thought I was done and I thought I was okay with moving on and it just didn’t seem like there was any light at the end of the tunnel,” said Robles, the only Red Bulls player to start every game this year. “For the New York Red Bulls to take a chance on me and to continue to support me and encourage me during the process, I’m floored, I’m humbled, I’m grateful and I’m just really thankful for everything that’s worked out the way it has.”
- To help alleviate some of the pressure that the club had been facing in recent weeks, sporting director Andy Roxburgh implemented a “Fun Rule” in training. Essentially, the Red Bulls were divided into three age-based teams that took part in some light-hearted rounds of penalty kicks or keep-up games at the end of practices. The three teams were Diaper Dandies, comprised of the youngsters on the club; Middle Age Crisis, which included a number of veterans; and AARP, which was made up of the elder statesmen like Robles, assistant coach Robin Frasier and captained by Petke. AARP (surprisingly) won last week’s tournament.
- Roxburgh told SBI late last week that the Red Bulls are likely to return to Florida next year for preseason preparations. Roxburgh said the Sunshine State might be the only destination on team’s preseason tour and mentioned Orlando, which seems to indicate that New York is in discussions to take part in the annual Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic. The Red Bulls have not taken part in that annual tournament since the inaugural edition back in 2010, which they won.
Agree that the Sounders game was a key moment in the Red Bulls’ regular season? Which performance from a complimentary player do you remember most from this year? How impressed have you been by Robles?
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