Backpost was slated to hop the path train yesterday in downtown NYC and ride out to Red Bull Arena (the Palace on the Passaic? The Jersey Jewel?) to attend the news conference introducing new coach Hans Backe, but day-job obligations intervened, and it didn’t happen.
It would have been valuable to get an in-person impression of the man, but beyond that, Backe’s encounter with the Fourth Estate wasn’t all that revealing—though it did clarify Jeff Agoos’s new role with the club, and there were some interesting nuggets.
Here are some choice quotes, with commentary:
On his stint as an assistant to Sven-Goran Eriksson with the Mexican national team:
“In Mexico, we were hired by the FMF [Mexican Federation] to win away games. We won at home, but not away, which is why we were sacked.”
Hmmm. We’d say they weren’t hired to win away games as much as they were hired to not tie Canada in between losses to Jamaica and Honduras, as they did in late 2008, but maybe that’s splitting hairs. Check the record here. (Eriksson’s staff was dismissed after the 3-1 loss to Honduras on April 1.) Shouldn’t Eriksson and Backe have understood Mexico’s status as a CONCACAF top dog, one whose fans, and federation, would not accept losses to Jamaica, home or away?
On similarities between MLS and Scandinavian leagues:
“Physically, the football looks like Scandinavia. They are very comparable and I think it’s no coincidence that so many U.S. players can play over there. There is a similar skill level and similar economic constraints.”
We were with him until the last phrase. The economic constraints are not so similar. How many top-flight players in Scandinavia make $20,100 a year? There were plenty making that in MLS in 2009. How many stars in Scandinavia make $34,728, as Stuart Holden did with his most recent MLS contract? Backe will find himself much more handcuffed when it comes to acquiring players in MLS (outside of the second D.P. slot the Red Bulls still have) than he ever was in Scandinavia.
On what kind of style he prefers for his teams
He mentioned “pace” and “technical skill”—okay, sure—and then went on to say, “Sometimes you look at the Spanish league, which is a possession league. But too much possession can be boring. You need the right balance. But after so many years I know how to build a team.”
Backe admitted that he hasn’t seen much of his new players in action, and this statement proves it: The Red Bulls (and MetroStars) have never come close to boring fans with sustained stretches of possession. Quite the contrary.
The club also announced the Jeff Agoos will stay, with a new focus on scouting and player discovery. Backe will not be significantly involved in today’s SuperDraft, in which the Red Bulls have the No. 2 pick.