Short-handed Red Bulls set for Crew test

The New York Red Bulls will be forced into using a makeshift lineup this weekend with a number of players unavailable, but Thierry Henry won’t be among the missing.

The short-handed Red Bulls should be bolstered by the expected return of Henry, and the French superstar will be surrounded by some different faces Saturday night at home against the Columbus Crew.

New York (4-2-6) will be without six players due to international duty – Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo (United States), Dane Richards (Jamaica), Dwayne De Rosario (Canada) and goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul (Senegal). That will open the door for several reserves.

"It’s always a great opportunity for them to get some minutes, to prove themselves when there is the need," coach Hans Backe told the league’s official website. "When the first-choice players aren’t around, they’re called on to step up and play a larger role."

Backe, named the coach of the MLS All-Stars on Thursday, does have mainstays to call upon in Luke Rodgers, Jan Gunnar Solli and Joel Lindpere. Most importantly, Henry should also be back.

Henry, who leads the team with six goals, did not make the trip for last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Vancouver due to a knee injury. He’s participated in training this week and will likely start.

That will give the Red Bulls a different look compared to a scoreless draw at Columbus (3-3-5) on April 26 in which he wasn’t available.

"They’re missing five players or six players, (but) that doesn’t matter," Columbus coach Robert Warzycha said. "If you look at their lineup with Henry and Rodgers and then Lindpere and Solli and all these guys, probably they are going to be missing Ream and one other defender Marquez, but they’re still a good team."

The Crew have been outscored 8-2 in going 0-3-2 away from home, and the Red Bulls are looking to take advantage of those road woes.

"When playing a team in the conference, you always want three points," Henry said.

Columbus enters after a 3-3 home draw with Chivas USA last Saturday in which it rallied from three one-goal deficits. Andres Mendoza scored twice and Emmanuel Ekpo had the final goal for the Crew, who were buoyed by seeing their offense come to life.

"I just think we have to continue trying to be sharp when we get into the other team’s end," midfielder Eddie Gaven said. "It’s about that last pass, last shot. Last game, it was obviously very good. We just have to go there and play the way we’ve played the whole year, I think."

The Red Bulls expect defender Carlos Mendes to be available after he left the Vancouver match with an ankle injury. Mendes returned to training Thursday.

"Still a little bit of swelling, but feeling better," Mendes said. "Definite improvement since Saturday, so that’s good."