It just wouldn't be the New York Red Bulls unless the sky was falling.
The Red Bulls dropped their second straight league game against the Houston Dynamo last week, which went a long way to end the warm and fuzzy, honeymoon-type feelings after Tim Cahill's signing. We were near the top of the East, but not for much longer. The defense looked anemic, the offense couldn't get much going. It was a wreck, and the return leg of the home-and-home didn't seem like we were going to get much in the way of improvement.
But the Red Bulls came out swinging Friday night and earned three points, vaulting them -- temporarily -- to the top of the East. And as unfashionable as it is to give props to our manager, Hans Backe deserves a pat on the back after Friday's performance.
1. He actually used subs.
Probably the most obvious one. In a shocking turn of events Clever Hans actually used all three of his subs, bringing Jan Gunnar Solli on for Sebastien Le Toux in the 78th minute, Teemu Tainio on for Joel Lindpere in the 79th minute and Rafael Marquez for Kenny Cooper in the 86th minute.
One thing that stands out, these were tactical subs, trading defense for offense to protect the then-1-0 lead.
It's possible that with a healthier roster, Backe is more apt to use subs. It's clear he doesn't always think the world of his roster, but the team has at least 13 players who would be starters on other MLS teams. Who knows? Maybe this will become a trend.
2. He put Connor Lade on the right.
Macoumba Kandji was allowed to run all over the Red Bulls last week, burning a rusty Heath Pearce and creating opportunities down that flank. This week, Kandji was a bit quieter and Connor Lade had something to do with that.
Lade's work rate is top notch and the move to put Lade out there to make Kandji work a bit more was a good one. Lade didn't completely shut him down -- Kandji still had some opportunities -- but he wasn't allowed to run roughshod over the Red Bulls defense.
Granted, Brandon Barklage is still out, but he could've opted for Pearce on the right again, with Marquez in the middle. Or Jonathan Borrajo. But he put the team's hardest worker out there, and it paid off.
3. Joel Lindpere got called out, and it worked
Backe got a lot of grief this week about laying into Lindpere, telling him he plays out on the left or he's done. Lindpere responded in the media, saying he was content working for a spot, and Friday night he went out and proved it. Lindpere looked a bit more like the Lindpere of old, rather than the a-step-behind Lindpere of this year.
Whether it was a brilliant managerial move, knowing the Estonian midfielder needed a stern talking to to light a fire under him, or a happy accident, he got a performance out of Lindpere, and that counts for something.