Red Bulls look to halt road struggles

Henry, Kandji key to breaking five-game road winless streak

The New York Red Bulls geared up on Friday for Saturday’s road match in Houston with a practice focused on technique and tactical specifics gearing up for the Dynamo. The focus on situational scenarios and finishing emphasized two key areas as New York worked on cutting down on individual mistakes.

The Red Bulls have not won a league match in more than a month and have not taken three points on the road in their last five travels. The loss to Columbus on the road two weeks ago still leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the Red Bulls.

“We did not play well that game,” midfielder Tony Tchani told MLSSoccer.com. “We didn’t play well, we didn’t perform well — it wasn’t a good game for us at all.”

Forward Mac Kandji, amidst rumors and speculation that he has tabled two offers from European teams, was lively in training. The distraction of a possible swoop has apparently not factored into the equation; earlier this week, Kandji said he was not aware of any offers coming in from European suitors. In fact, he received a call on Tuesday afternoon from his agent but did not pick it up while taking a nap.

New York, however, has no plans to move the player.

“We wouldn’t do anything anyway,” said sporting director Erik Soler, when asked about whether offers were received by the club, adding that Kandji is “not going anywhere.”

Head coach Hans Backe said he will wait to announce the lineup on Saturday, but that he figures Kandji will figure into the starting 11 somehow, either on a wing or up top. If lined up as a forward to start the game, Kandji will partner with Thierry Henry, whom Backe said will start but likely play just 45 minutes. Earlier this week, Backe told MLSSoccer.com Henry still has “heavy legs” as he attempts to get match-fit. The coach is doing his best to manage expectations for his new player, who has been crushed with media interviews, ad tapings and house-hunting.

“I’m not sure Henry will make an impact tomorrow,” Backe admitted.

Backe also said that Seth Stammler, who played left midfield against Manchester City on Sunday, will most likely play the same role against the Dynamo. This means that Roy Miller will be slotted in at left back, per the coach.

Waiting in Houston is forward Juan Pablo Angel, who participated in the mid-week All-Star Game. Backe is uncertain if the player will start, given that he missed both matches in the Barclays New York Challenge.

“He played 45 minutes [in the All-Star Game] and he looked OK,” Backe said about Angel. 

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012