The New York Red Bulls open their 2011 MLS season Saturday night at Red Bull Arena against the Seattle Sounders. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET (MSG Network).
The Red Bulls completed a worst-to-first turnaround in the 2010 regular season, but were then stunned on their home ground in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. Coached by Hans Backe, the Red Bulls finished atop the East in the regular season with 51 points and a 15-9-6 record in 30 games.
The Red Bulls will also be playing their first full season with Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez, two star players who came to New York in the middle of the 2010 season.
"MLS reminds me of a young version of the English premiership," Henry told MLS Network. "Guys are athletic here. They get into you, there's a fast pace.
"I never set myself any personal targets before the season," Henry said. "You reach a time in your career where you want to make the guys around you play better. ... We have Juan Agudelo and Dane Richards. Dane Richards is our go-to player. He always makes things happen on the field. We have guys with pace, so I don’t mind playing a bit more in the middle and trying to fit people in."
One familiar face will not be part of the Red Bulls when the season opens this evening. Former captain and all-time Red Bulls leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel is now a member of the LA Galaxy. Angel scored 13 goals for New York a season ago.
There will be several key newcomers on the Red Bulls side this season. Midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli from Norway. is a veteran of that country's international team. Teemu Tainio, from Finland, has English Premier League experience. Luke Rodgers is an English forward who comes to the Red Bulls with a 'bad boy' reputation. The Red Bulls also drafted midfielder John Rooney, younger brother of superstar Wayne Rooney.