Backe takes over MLS doormat
Hans Backe hopes to succeed where a string of high-powered coaches have failed.
"I can't analyze what has happened with foreign coaches in the past," he said Wednesday when he was introduced as coach of the New York Red Bulls, the worst team in Major League Soccer last year.
"I know that the MLS is physical football and looks similar to Scandinavian football. I've been around different countries, so I know what it takes to build a winning team."
He is the 12th coach since the team began play as the MetroStars in 1996. Eddie Firmani, Carlos Queiroz, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Bora Milutinovic, Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena are among his predecessors.
Last year, the Red Bulls were an embarrassing 5-19-6 in the league and 6-21-7 overall under Juan Carlos Osorio and Richie Williams, who took over on an interim basis Aug. 21.
They have a 27-game (0-20-7) winless streak in MLS regular-season road matches since winning at the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 10, 2008.
There will be a new look this season, when the team opens Red Bull Arena on March 27 against Chicago. The $200 million soccer-specific stadium has a 25,000 capacity, down from about 80,000 at Giants Stadium.
"It's a team with a new nice stadium and a new training facility coming," Backe said. "Sure, it's a massive challenge after their rough season last year. But I was ready to come here and be a part of something new."
The 57-year-old Swede, who led Copenhagen to four Danish league titles, was fired by Greece's Panathinaikos in September 2006, worked as a television commentator and then was hired by as an assistant to Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson in July 2007.
When Eriksson became Mexico's coach in June 2008, Backe followed. But Eriksson was fired last April and three months later was hired as director of football at Notts County, a League Two team in England.
Backe became Notts County's manager on Oct. 27 and was given a two-year contract with an option for a third season, but he quit Dec. 15.
"It was a little embarrassing to take over there and then have the owners gone and the money is gone," Backe said. "I couldn't say anything when promises were not met. We weren't able to pay our players."
He was the first choice of Red Bulls sporting director Erik Soler, who replaced Jeff Agoos, shifted Wednesday to director of scouting and player recruitment.
"When Hans stepped down from his other job, I made sure that I had to call him," Soler said. "Even though it's going to be a lot of hard work, we believe that Hans is going to bring us a lot of success."
Although Backe and Soler have no previous experience with MLS's rules and salary cap, they will be assisted by Williams, who will remain as assistant coach, and goalkeeper coach Des McAleenan.
"It will be different because I don't get my own budget to work with to get players," Backe said. "I don't think I've ever taken over a team and turned it around, but I know how to build a team. It's a massive challenge here to build a new team."