RED BULLS SEEK REDEMPTION VS. TORONTO FC

Despite suffering a confidence-killing 1-1 draw against the Revolution last Saturday, there’s some good news for the Red Bulls: They won’t have to play in Foxboro for the rest of the season.

New York’s personal house of horrors found a new way to deny the Bulls three points. After Joel Lindpere gave the Red Bulls the lead late into injury time, the Revs’ Darrius Barnes equalized the score in the 95th minute with a thumping header past a dejected Bill Gaudette.

“It’s a scramble,” the goalie said to MSG’s Tina Cervasio after the game. “Anytime you’re up at the end of the game like that, [New England] is throwing tons of numbers forward, we were a little disorganized. They whip in a ball and we didn’t do a great job as a defense to make a play at the end when we really just needed one more play, and we would have walked out of here with three points.”

What made the result so deflating was the fact that New York had seemingly overcome the odds and was so close to recording a win in New England for the first time in more than a  decade. Connor Lade had been sent off in the 74th minute, leaving the Red Bulls down to 10 men. Against all odds, they managed to take the lead shorthanded and were on the verge of a landmark victory. But, in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.

The Bulls are still in good position to make the postseason – they currently have a five-point cushion over the Columbus Crew, the team on the outside looking in – but the draw could be costly for the team’s chances at winning the Eastern Conference.  Had New York held on, it would be three points behind East-leading Sporting Kansas City with a match upcoming at Red Bull Arena against the leaders on Saturday, Oct. 20 (6:30 p.m., MSG2).

It’s too late to dwell on missed opportunities now. The Red Bulls host Toronto FC Saturday (6:30 p.m. on MSG) and anything but a win would be a disappointment. TFC is at the bottom of the MLS standings with only 22 points and has won just two matches away from BMO Field. The Canadian outfit has allowed the most goals in the league (55) and is second to last in terms of goal difference (-21). With Thierry Henry to return from suspension for this one, all signs point to a New York victory.

However, if the result goes the other way, things might get a little more tense in the Red Bulls’ locker room.

Brandon’s Back

With Lade suspended for the match Saturday, Brandon Barklage is expected to be reinstalled as the starting right back against Toronto.

Barklage came on as a sub Saturday, but hadn’t played significant minutes since leaving with a hamstring injury in the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win over the Union back on July 21.

Before getting hurt, Barklage established himself as one of Hans Backe’s most trusted lieutenants and made the right back position his own.

“I felt like I was on a decent run in the 15, 16 games I played,” Barklage told mlssoccer.com’s Franco Panizo Wednesday at practice. “I think my goal from now on is to solidify a spot somewhere and show people more of what I can offer to the team.”

The suspension of Lade means yet another reshuffle for the Red Bulls’ ever-changing back four. The smart money would be to expect Barklage to slide in at left back, Markus Holgersson and Heath Pearce at center back and Wilman Conde to remain at left back.

The question is: What will Backe do when Lade returns from suspension? There’s something to be said about the way Barklage and Lade have performed at full back this season. While Conde has been serviceable at left back in the past few matches, it’s apparent that the Colombian is much more comfortable in the center of defense.

Backe will have to make a quick decision after Saturday’s match.

Rafa Back on the Sidelines

It almost seems like Rafa Marquez’ time as a Red Bull has been cursed ever since he put pen to paper in New York.

The former Mexican national team captain hurt his hamstring in the match against the Revs last Saturday and will be on the sidelines for two weeks.

Marquez, who had been utilized in a central midfield role, may be replaced by Dax McCarty, who shifted out wide right to accommodate the former Barcelona player.

While losing a player of Marquez’ ability will hurt, it may be a blessing in disguise. It’s no secret that McCarty has excelled in center midfield this season and brings an energy and vigor that the languid Marquez lacks. McCarty has yet to strike up an effective partnership with Tim Cahill in the center of the pitch, but that can only come with time and experience. Once again, Backe will have to make yet another tough decision when everyone is fully fit.