UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – By now, the rigors of the road in MLS are old hat for Thierry Henry.
The French striker and the Red Bulls are back at it again on Thursday, on the road for the fifth time since Henry’s arrival in late July and looking to earn some crucial points against an FC Dallas team riding a franchise-record 14-game unbeaten streak.
“[It seems that] every time we go away, we play a team that hasn’t lost in a long time,” Henry said Tuesday, shaking his head.
True enough, the Red Bulls have faced some serious tests on the road in the last six weeks. They’ve won some (Toronto FC), lost some (Real Salt Lake) and drawn a few more (Houston, Chicago). But the test that awaits them at Pizza Hut Park could be one this season’s most demanding, especially after the last time the teams met earlier this season.
The Red Bulls escaped the teams’ first meeting on Apr. 17 with a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena, thanks to a late penalty kick to cap a two-goal night for Juan Pablo Angel. But time after time in the second half, Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul had to stand on his head to keep New York in the game.
FC Dallas last lost on May 20, making them the hottest and most consistent team in the league. The Red Bulls struggled with FCD’s strong midfield play in early April, often appearing at a loss as to how to handle their deep push of players and high line of pressure, as New York were forced to settle and play the counterattack.
The Red Bulls now, however, are hoping that Rafa Márquez and Monday’s acquisition of former Rapids playmaker Mehdi Ballouchy will help calm the midfield and hold more possession.
Márquez, who saw an early exit in the second half of last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Colorado, will most likely see some playing time as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered against the Rapids. The Mexican National Team captain is a difference-maker for the Red Bulls, a player who can settle the ball and maintain possession.
“When Rafa left the pitch on Saturday, we didn’t play that well,” Henry said.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012