The New York Red Bulls knew they would be missing their two biggest stars.
Now, they'll face the surging Vancouver Whitecaps without coach Hans Backe and arguably their best defender.
The Red Bulls will try to rebound from a listless performance and overcome the absences of Backe and Wilman Conde in Vancouver on Wednesday night.
New York (8-4-2) is expected to be without forward Thierry Henry (calf) and defender Rafa Marquez (thigh) for at least one more game. Without them, the Red Bulls lost 3-1 at Chicago on Sunday, ending a 5-0-1 run with their worst defensive performance since a 4-1 defeat at D.C. on April 22.
"We need to defend better," Backe said. "That has to be the starting point."
Improving defensively may be much more difficult with Conde expected to rest due to a stretch of three games in eight days. The defender has been limited to three games this season due to a groin strain.
"We know we have to be a little bit smart with Conde now," Backe told the team's official website.
Backe won't be on the bench, either. He's tending to a personal matter and assistants Jan Halvor Halvorsen and Mike Petke will handle the coaching duties.
The Red Bulls could use a better effort from Kenny Cooper, who will be relied upon heavily again with Henry out. The forward, who is tied with San Jose's Chris Wondolowski with a league-leading 11 goals, was held to one shot on goal Sunday after finding the net in each of the previous four contests.
The Whitecaps (7-3-4) are unbeaten in their last four games (2-0-2) after Sebastien Le Toux scored in the 80th minute of a 1-0 win over Colorado on Saturday. That came 20 minutes after rookie forward Darren Mattocks was issued a red card for a rough tackle, meaning he's suspended Wednesday.
"It's one of those games that we'll remember for a long time, because it's one of those pivotal moments that shows we're a team that doesn't give up, and we're a team that doesn't look for excuses," coach Martin Rennie said.
More production from Le Toux would be welcome. The forward ended a seven-game goal drought against the Rapids, and has scored just four times after netting 25 with Philadelphia over the last two years.
"For a while it can be in your head," Le Toux said. "For a long time I didn't score. It was great for me, great for my confidence."
This is the only meeting of the season between these teams after they played to 1-1 draws in both matchups last year.
- New York Red Bulls
- Hans Backe
- Thierry Henry
- Wilman Conde