Enough blame to go around on Red Bulls
Thierry Henry cites inattentiveness.
Tim Ream brings up locker-room frustration and red cards.
Coach Hans Backe points out a lack of physical play in the middle of the field.
After a 16th straight trophyless season, there's enough blame to go around on the high-spending New York Red Bulls.
''It's about attention and being aware of what's happening,'' Henry said Tuesday, five days after a playoff-ending loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second round. ''Most of the time, it was a lack of concentration. It was like we were conceding a lot of goals on set pieces.''
Despite Major League Soccer's highest average salary at the start of the season and a roster that included Henry and Mexican national team captain Rafa Marquez, the Red Bulls struggled to a 10-8-16 regular-season record and just gained the league's 10th and final playoff berth. About 40 percent of their 44 regular-season goals allowed came off restarts.
After beating FC Dallas 2-0 in the first round, the Red Bulls lost to the Galaxy on 3-1 aggregate.
''We scored a lot, but we have conceded too many goals from set plays and unforced errors,'' Backe said. ''We definitely need to get more physical strength in this team. I think we were a little naive to think we could play a more possession-type game than a physical game. We need some physical strength for next year.''
Backe wants to add a more physical, low-salaried American to central defense of midfield, most likely through a trade. With Frank Rost likely to return to his native Germany for either retirement or a new contract, the Red Bulls might sign another goalkeeper as a designated player.
In his second season in MLS, Henry topped the Red Bulls with 14 goals. Late in the season, Marquez was shifted from central defense to midfield, where he could better distribute the ball to Henry and Luke Rodgers. The more physical Stephen Keel replaced him on defense.
''This league is built on big, strong, fast, physical guys,'' said Ream, a promising American defender who struggled for much of his second season. ''If that means playing a possession style while being more physical, that's the way to go. It's a mentality. It's wanting to go in and do the dirty work.''
A good start ended when players left for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Marquez made critical statements late in the season about his teammates not rising to the quality of what is found in other international leagues.
Marquez drew a three-game suspension that will continue for the first two matches next season for an end-of-game fracas against the Galaxy.
''We've got to get rid of all the back-room chatter,'' Ream said. ''Red cards are going to happen, but we did have quite a few. It's a mentality, really. You can't let the frustrations get the best of you and do something stupid. That goes for on and off the field. I think everybody saw this year those frustrations boiled over, and that's something we have to get rid of.''
Backe was confident most of the team would return, along with the coaching staff. Midfielder Joel Lindpere, the team MVP, led the Red Bulls with seven assists to go along with seven goals. He missed only 12 minutes of action, and he probably be rewarded with a new contract.
The status quo isn't sufficient, though.
''It has to change,'' said Backe, who completed his second season. ''We had a lot of problems with red cards and other things this year. This has been absolutely the messiest year I've been involved with in 32 years. It has to be cleaned up for next year. Things have to change.''