No guts, no glory for Red Bulls

STEVE SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

The New York Red Bulls have $13 million US tied up this season in their three designated players.

Judging by Saturday’s performance by the Big Three at BMO Field, it looks like it’s money well spent.

It’s a gamble, by allocating just over $1 million in salary cap space to Rafael Marquez, Thierry Henry and Juan Pablo Angel, the Red Bulls have precious little left to spend. The three will need to remain healthy and carry the team.

And that’s what they did in yesterday’s 4-1 win.

With very few chances on goal in a first half that TFC dominated territorially, New York carved out a two-goal lead thanks to some inspired moments from Marquez. His half-volley from 25 yards out will be a candidate for MLS goal of the week. And his cross caromed off TFC midfielder Joseph Nane’s shin for an own goal after Nana Attakora whiffed on a clearing attempt.

After the second goal, all of Toronto’s momentum from the early pressure was gone. This time around, skill triumphed over hard work.

In the second half, Angel struck a penalty-kick goal so hard, even though keeper Stefan Frei got his hand to it, he couldn’t keep it out.

Late in the first half, Angel could have scored after Henry floated a cross to his feet, but Frei did well to absorb the shot off his chest.

Angel said that this was New York’s best effort since Henry and Marquez donned Red Bulls jerseys.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Angel said. “We can see as the season goes on, we are getting stronger and stronger.”

“We took advantage of the fact that Toronto played midweek,” Henry said. “It’s tough to play two games in a row.”

But, as good as the Big Three looked Saturday, the gamble is there. There are areas where the Red Bulls aren’t strong — especially in the back four. Central defender Carlos Mendes got caught out of position numerous times in the first half, and was beaten one-on-one by Dwayne De Rosario for Toronto FC’s goal in the second half. Can a Red Bulls team legitimately be a contender with a defensive pairing of Tim Ream and Mendes? Is there enough left on the rest of the roster for this team to challenge Columbus in the East, or compete with the West’s big three — the Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas?

New York coach Hans Backe thinks the Angel, Marquez and Henry’s presence will have an affect on the entire team, helping develop promising young players like Tony Tchani and Dane Richards.

“To develop young players, you need the this type of quality players around them,” he said.

And egos? No worries when it comes to Marquez and Henry, both added to the team in the last month.

“Both guys are very humble in a way,” Backe said. “Both have been captains for their national teams and club teams.”

But the gamble has a lot more to do with wins and losses. In a brand new stadium this season, the owners of the energy drink in Austria need this team to gain a profile in the biggest media market of all.

Henry admitted that while it’s impossible to “get ahead of the Yankees on the front page,” it’s important for the team to do whatever it can to increase its reach.

And those thoughts were echoed by Marquez.

Lightning rod

“I think if we can work as hard as we can, we can entice fans to come watch us in our arena, in New York and outside of New York.”

As Henry walked off the pitch when he was subbed out in the 67th minute, he put his arms up in the air and applauded the Toronto fans who booed him vociferously right from his first touch of the ball. It was a sincere gesture of appreciation from a man who knows he is more than a designated player — he’s a lightning rod for MLS.

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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