CARSON -- Thierry Henry has played in bigger games than this one during his career, so what's facing him and his New York Red Bulls teammates Thursday night isn't the least bit daunting.
The Galaxy takes a minimal 1-0 advantage into the second leg of the two-games, total-goals, first-round Major League Socccer playoff series at Home Depot Center, but Henry understands the challenge facing his club is a difficult one.
L.A. has not lost at HDC this season, going 16-0-6, including CONCACAF Champions League, the “away” game against Chivas and the friendly with Manchester City, and has posted shutouts in 21 of 43 competitive matches.
“It's a must-win game. A very difficult game,” Henry said on the eve of the clash. “They showed the other game at out place why they're so consistent. They were difficult to break down. We had a couple chances, but they defended well.
“It's always going to be difficult. They didn't lose a game at home this season, and for us to take it [and advance to the Western Conference final Sunday against Real Salt Lake], it has to be by two goals. So we all know it's going to be a difficult one against the best team in the league, but we came here to try to cause an upset.”
They'll have to do so without Mexican midfielder Rafa Marquez, a Designated Player suspended after picking up a postgame red card in Sunday's first leg for hurling the ball at Landon Donovan after the final whistle. Marquez's strengths are setting the game's pace from deep in midfield and delivering dangerous balls from distance, sort of like David Beckham, with a shade less proficiency.
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe says Dax McCarty or Stephane Auvray will take his place, and with the Bulls needing goals, McCarty seems likeliest. The Swedish coach's comments on his game plan suggest so.
Asked if the aim would be to come out as in the second half Sunday, when the Red Bulls applied heavy pressure on L.A.'s backline, Backe said: “I hope so. I expect us to come out with a lot of energy. But at the same time, play smart. It's a long time -- 90 minutes -- and probably most important in the beginning is having a clean sheet, not going one down. ...
“I don't care that much if we score 88th minute or something like that and go to extra time. I think the key thing is not going down early in the game. We need to stay in the game for at least 60, 70 minutes.”
Pivotal to that, he says, is stopping “the service, the distribution” to Galaxy forward Robbie Keane.
“It's a quality player, of course, and also with a lot of experience from big games. And always scoring big goals,” Backe said of the Irishman. “I think we coped with him quite well in our home game, but just giving him a chance, an unforced error, and he will score. Ah, it's a quality player.”
Backe was pleased to have limited to Beckham to “three or four final passes for 90 minutes” in the first leg and will want to do the same at HD.
Henry says finding ways to beat L.A.'s backline isn't simple, but that it's the Galaxy's overall defensive approach that's so impressive.
“The way Landon Donovan was defending the other day. The way Becks was defending the other day. The way they were shielding their defense and the way their defense was also doing the job,” the French forward said. “All season, they were a great unit, and, hopefully, they won't show it too much [Thursday], because that won't be a good sign for us. ...
“We're going to have to do something almost incredible to be able to go through. We still have 90 minutes, maybe more, so we'll see what we can do.”