HARRISON, N.J. -- After two magnificent performances where the New York Red Bulls have displayed their technical and tactical best, reporters probed the team's locker room hungry for any player willing to discuss the team's MLS Cup potential. Despite all of the general platitudes about patience that are being thrown out there if you read between the lines, the message is clear.
"There is no comparison," said team captain Juan Pablo Angel boastingly comparing this team to the team that was a runner up in the 2008 MLS Cup. "First of all, the position in the table is different and the quality of the players that we have here is amazing."
Even as coach Hans Backe declared today that the team still lacks a killer instinct to completely put away teams, there is a sense of confidence and optimism emanating from the players.
The team's struggles on offense this season have been well documented but in the past two games, its vision of Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Angel forming a dominating offense has become a reality. Marquez and Henry's stellar ball skills and adept passing have brought out the best in players like Angel and Dane Richards. With Henry finally getting on an MLS scoresheet, the team can become even more prolific as its confidence grows.
"They are getting fitter and stronger and as the games go on, you can see that they are getting to the level that everyone expected," said Angel.
Still, Backe and Angel continue to preach patience believing that there is still a lot of improvement necessary.
"It's good [that] we're improving but I still don't think we're good enough," said Backe.
"I wouldn't like to say that [we're contenders] right now but we are definitely building something here," added Angel. "I know it sounds like an old cliché but we have to take this one game at a time."
Yet if the team is as good as Angel claims it to be, to the stage where its significantly better than 2008 MLS Cup runners, then the expectations should be obvious. This is a team that has a 200 million dollar stadium, three designated players and currently sits only four points behind East leading Columbus Crew. While it might be foolish to say MLS Cup or bust, this team is starting to show that it is definitely the best in the Eastern Conference and should expect a deep run in the playoffs.
"We feel like the team is finally getting stronger, getting more confident. When we get to the playoffs, we are going to have players that are in better form," said Angel."Henry and Marquez are going to be sharper and fitter and that’s going to be a great asset for us."
"This is just the beginning, there is still more to come."
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