May 29, 2012
TAKING IT SERIOUSLY
Backe plans to use Meara, Cooper, as many as 8 starters in Open Cup at Charleston
What a difference a year makes.
|Kenny Cooper is expected to start against the Charleston Battery on Tuesday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Some 11 months after sending a reserve lineup to a Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup game at the Chicago Fire and himself staying home, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe is sending in the A-Team in a third-round encounter against the Charleston Battery on Tuesday night.
The game, which is set to start at 7:30 p.m., will be streamed live on www.USLSoccer.com.
Backe said he expects to use as many starters agaisnt the USL PRO side, which was a far cry from last season. That's when assistant coach Mike Petke was sent to Chicago with a reserve team as the Red Bulls fell, 4-0, creating a firestorm of criticism that Backe and the Red Bulls did not take the competition seriously.
Asked if he had any second thoughts about what transpired and if he would have made the trip last year, Backe replied, "I haven't thought about that. I cannot answer that."
What he has thought about is this year's game.
"We just need to take it seriously," he said on Monday. "We need to play the strongest team we can. It's my job to get the guys ready for this game in the mindset."
Backe said he probably will deploy eight starters, including starting rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who has played every minute of the Major Leauge Soccer season, and striker Kenny Cooper, who is tied for the scoring lead with San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (11 goals apiece).
It is traditional for teams to use their backup goalkeeper for early matches in the competition, particularly against lower tier sides. So, reserve Jeremy Vuolo will have to wait for his opportunity.
Several players haven't made the journey to Charleston, including team captain and striker Thierry Henry, who aggravated a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Chivas USA last week.
"We decided to leave him out mostly because he's not 100 percent in his hamstring," Backe said. "It feels just stupid to take any risks with him."
Defender Roy Miller (Costa Rica) and midfielders Joel Lindpere (Estonia), Dane Richards (Jamaica) and Rafa Marquez (Mexico) are unavailbale due to international commitments.
However, defender Stephen Keel, Wilman Conde and defender-midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli are available for selection.
Backe said the team will deploy two strikers, saying that either rookie Johnny Arteaga or Mehdi Ballouchy are the likely candidates.
The Red Bulls, who lost to the Fire in the 2003 final, 1-0, don't have the best of records in the competition, especially against teams from the lower leagues. For example, the Red Bulls twice have been eliminated by the Battery in 2001 and 2004.
Backe admitted did not know that, but the team has scouted Charleston.
"We know what to expect from them," he said. "I hope they can't surprise us."
Winning the Open Cup would not mean the first championship for the club, it also is a gateway to the CONCACAF Champions League.
"We were quite aware of it," Backe said. "It could be a way to get into the CONCACAF Champions League. As I said last year, comparing to this year, because now the travel schedule helps us a lot even if we're losing four-five starters. IF you want to take tournaments seriously, you can't play FIFA dates. We have players available after injuries."