May 3, 2012, 1:10 PM EDT
Injured striker Juan Agudelo returned to full-team training on Thursday, two days before the 3rd New York Red Bulls clash with a Los Angeles Galaxy squad that’s struggling to find consistency. If he plays, which will be in large part determined by how the knee reacts to the session, it will be his first appearance of the year. (Hans Backe said that no matter what, his young charge will figure for a maximum of 25 minutes.)
Not that the Red Bulls need more firepower up front. 18 goals in 8 games is enough to lead the league in goals per match, just ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes 20 in 9. (Random scoring aside: The Vancouver Whitecaps are in 4th place in the Western Conference — and would be in 3rd in the east — despite scoring less than a goal a game. Jay Demerit likes him some low-scoring fixtures.)
The problems are elsewhere, with the party line on New York’s season so far being that the team can’t defend. But take another look at the results. While a good AYSO team could have scored against them at RFK two weeks ago, they haven’t been awful otherwise. They held San Jose to 2, which looks increasingly impressive as the season progresses. Backe’s backline has been nad and inconsistent, yes. But historically terrible? Hardly. And with an offense that’s clicking, bolstered by the return of a certain mohawked 19 year old, even an adequate defense will suffice.
Besides, things could be worse. The Red Bulls could be D.C. United, who conceded five goals to the ‘Quakes Wednesday night. “I think we missed a center back today. That’s nothing against Perry [Kitchen] or Robbie [Russell], but they’re not center backs,” manager Ben Olsen said after watching goofballs Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart, and the rest of the West Coast crew shred the Black-and-Red’s backline.
Tim Ream ain’t walking through that door. But Saturday or soon after, Agudelo is. And with a few tweaks, that might be all that matters.
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