June 4, 2012
Backe sets his sights on Open Cup title
By Kristian R. Dyer
|Hans Backe: “We are of course very short-handed; we have 13 outfield players, that’s all the roster we have. Three subs; we’re all in.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BigAppleSoccer.com Contributing Editor
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – On the heels of last year’s early exit from the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup, Red Bulls fans were up in arms at that lack of priority the club placed on the annual tournament.
Without a major piece of silverware in their trophy case, the Red Bulls seemed to throw away a chance at making a run for the Open Cup, leading the supporters to protest the lack of effort by sitting without cheering through the first half of their next home league match. New York played mainly reserves last year and coach Hans Backe decided not to travel with the team for the fourth-round match at the Chicago Fire, instead sending assistant coach Mike Petke for the team’s 4-0 loss. It was seen as a slap in the face to a fan base starving for a trophy.
This year, however, doing well and making a run for the Cup is clearly on the mind of the team.
“It’s a high priority as we said at the beginning of the year we should make a run for the cup. It is still difficult in a way quite difficult when you play FIFA dates the same time as the Open Cup,” Backe said.
“We are of course very short-handed; we have 13 outfield players, that’s all the roster we have. Three subs; we’re all in.”
Even shorthanded, it appears that New York will be playing in Harrisburg, Pa on Tuesday against the Harrisburg City Islanders with most of their best available players. Backe cites a “much, much better schedule” this year than last year when the team was without a number of starters due to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, had injury concerns and found their Open Cup games sandwiched between long road trips. It was a fixture congestion, he says, that led the cup to being such a low priority.
This year, even with a number of starters away for FIFA international dates, the Red Bulls seem much more coherent of a Starting XI in the Open Cup.
“Last year was difficult for us with all the travel and so many players missing,” defender Stephen Keel said.
“But this year, we have a deep team and lots of players who can come in and contribute. I think that is going to help us not only in the Open Cup, but also in the regular season as well.”
On Monday following training, Backe ruled out forward Thierry Henry from the fixture in Pennsylvania and with several other starters away with their national teams, it won’t be a full strength team playing the City Islanders. But it will be the best team that the Red Bulls can put out on the field, which for the busload of supporters making the trip, means there shouldn’t be any sit-down protest at the next home game.
“Right now we are facing the Open Cup just as responsibly and professionally as the MLS [season],” defender Wilman Conde said.
“We understand that it is an important tournament and we’re going to do our best to try and win it.”