The motto of the famed Three Musketeers is “All for One and One for All”. No matter whatever issues arise or the differences of opinion, the group fights together for the common goal.
It appears that the Red Bulls have decided to take on a similar mindset. New York has run off three straight wins ever since a well-publicized argument between Thierry Henry and coach Mike Petke became big news late last month. While some would have assumed the disagreement would lead to discord in the squad, it has had the opposite effect and has brought the team closer together.
“Everyone is on the same page,” midfielder Dax McCarty said after the Red Bulls’ 2-0 victory over Toronto FC. “And I think that’s the one thing that the coaching staff and the players have really tried to correct.”
That includes the team captain, who has rediscovered his goalscoring touch, scoring two goals in his last two games after a seven-match drought. While the goals have been a boon for Petke, the coach also made sure to praise his star for the effort and commitment he’s been putting in lately.
“Thierry’s goals the last two weeks [are] a product of everybody behind him and the quality he has, of course, at the end of it. So it’s great to have him scoring two weeks in a row, but I’m equally pleased at what he’s doing aside from the goals. If you saw him [last Saturday], [you saw] Thierry Henry sprinting back 40 yards, four or five different times into our half to defend. That’s phenomenal.”
This renewed commitment has seen the Red Bulls rise to the top of the Eastern Conference and has them just a point off the Seattle Sounders for the Supporters’ Shield title. But Henry says the team isn’t getting ahead of itself.
“I’ve been in this league for a very long time now to know to not get carried away with anything,” he said. “ … All the games in this league are really hard,” Henry said. “We’re enjoying what we’re doing right now, but no more, no less … we cannot control what everyone else is doing and we’ll try to concentrate on us.”
Will the Red Bulls be able to continue their current run all the way to a title? With the shift in mentality and the depth to compete with any team in MLS, McCarty has faith in his comrades to get the jobs done.
“I think this team believes in itself,” he said. “I think we have the players now that can make us dangerous. Once we get everyone healthy, there’s going to be some serious competition for places and I think we’re all excited about the stretch run and we think we can make some noise.”
With Tim Cahill only fit enough to be on the bench and Lloyd Sam out with a groin injury, Petke turned to young Michael Bustamante for his league debut in center midfield.
No one was more surprised that the 23-year-old himself.
“[I was] very surprised,” he said. “… [I] wasn’t really expecting it, but I was up to the challenge and it worked out.”
Battling nerves early on in the match, the former Boston University star grew into the game and delivered a secondary assist on Henry’s 32nd-minute goal. When asked about what the captain told him before the game, Bustamonte said the advice he received was simple.
“[Henry] said, ‘just be confident and play my game,” he said. “He said I was going to be all right and make sure I completed my passes.”
After the game, Henry was effusive in praise for the young apprentice.
“Overall, I guess the story of the game for me will be how Bustamonte played,” he said. You have to give him credit because it’s not always easy to just be on the side all season and play in the reserves sometimes … then suddenly you got to play. I thought at times he played pretty well.”
Celebrate Good Times
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Tina Cervasio’s pregame report on Jonny Steele’s unique goal celebration last week in Houston, watch it here.
The Red Bulls have been trying to corner the market on goal celebrations, with Henry going with “resting on the post” celebration after his two goals.
“It’s just fun, you know?” Bradley Wright-Phillips told Tina. “I think the crowd will like it, especially if it’s at home. I think we should do it at [Red Bull Arena].”
A Look Ahead: vs. FC Dallas Sunday
The Red Bulls are back home Sunday, as they battle FC Dallas and look to keep their top standing in the East. (Coverage starts at 4:30 PM on MSG).
New York could see former Red Bull striker Kenny Cooper in the lineup, although Cooper has seen his stock fall in Dallas and has been used more as a substitute recently.
Any discussion on FC Dallas starts and begins with David Ferreira, Dallas’ star playmaker. An MLS MVP in 2010, Ferreira is a classic “No. 10”, a player who creates opportunities. The Columbian is tied for fifth in the MLS for total assists and will be public enemy No. 1 come Sunday.
The Red Bulls know that with just five games left on the schedule, every match has that much more importance, especially in a close race for the Supporters’ Shield and in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s playoff time,” Henry said. “We would have liked to be more consistent for the whole season. But it’s never too late doing it, especially [with the race for the Eastern Conference] … But as you know Dallas is a very good team and we’re going to have to fight against them [Sunday].”