Felipe: “We know we didn’t play well the last game. We know what we need to do better. We need to be sharper.” (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
Beware the trap game.
That’s when a team looks past a match and doesn’t take the opponent at hand seriously.
Exhibit A: winless Real Salt Lake (0-2-1), which fired head coach Jeff Cassar only three games into the season Monday. Assistant coach Daryl Shore is running the show as interim coach.
Add the fact that RSL will be missing goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who is on World Cup qualifying duty with the U.S. national team, and it would be quite easy for the Red Bulls (2-1-0) to not take their foes seriously in the 4 p.m. Saturday encounter at Red Bull Arena.
Many times after a coaching change a team will perform out of its skin, so the Red Bulls claimed they are prepared to face an inspired RSL side.
“I’m not psychic. If I was on that team, I’d probably want to impress the new manager,” striker Bradley Wright-Phillips told reporters after training at the team’s complex in Hanover, N.J. Thursday. “We expect the best version of Salt Lake. It will be a good performance by them.”
Midfielder Felipe agreed.
“Every time they change the coach, they change the approach,” he said. “Players need to show up, need to show the coach what they’re about, to earn their spot.”
Added goalkeeper Luis Robles: “Because of the new coach and the situation that they’re in, there’s a lot that these players have to prove and I think they’re going to use this game for exactly that. We know that they’re missing some of their best players, but even some of the players in the lineup are very dangerous.”
Forward Yura Movsisyan, who has only one goal in three games this season after scoring nine last season. Robles warned how good and how tricky the 29-year-old Movsisyan can be.
“He has such quality to his game that really, he can be checked out for 89 minutes and then in one minute he can punish us,” he said, remembering how Movsisyan tallied the first goal in RSL’s comeback 2-1 win over the Red Bulls at RBA last June 22. “It wasn’t as if he was [dominating] and all of a sudden he scores the goal and we are losing that game. He’s the type of guy who that maybe he’s involved early on and drifts off. But that still means we need to be aware of him constantly, knowing that it takes only 15 seconds of brilliance from him … to change the game.”
Felipe said the Red Bulls should be worried more about themselves, especially after coming off a disappointing 3-1 road defeat at the Seattle Sounders Sunday.
“We know we didn’t play well the last game,” he said. “We know what we need to do better. We need to be sharper, we need to be clearer. We need to do the little things better to make us win. Just worry about ourselves. If we do the right things and do the way we want to play and are sharp on the day, we don’t have to worry about the opponent. Of course, it’s about our team, how we are going to respond after not a good match in Seattle.”
Ditto from Robles, who had to dig the ball out of the net three times at CenturyLink Field.
Remember, though the Red Bulls have won two games they haven’t been brow-beating opponents. Both their victories came via own goals, which is quite rare.
“It’s the beginning of the season. I would be more concerned if we were a finished product this early in the season, but we’re not,” Robles said. “With the new tactics, with the new sophistication, the integration of new players, there’s going to be some wrinkles and there’s a learning curve that’s pretty steep.
“But nonetheless, looking at the first three league games, there are a lot of positives to take away from that. It’s going to be about continuing to establish ourselves in the way we want to play and continuing to integrate those players. We can’t expect perfection this early on. but we do know this is a great opportunity because we’re at home in front of our fans. These are the type of games we have to get three points from.”