Backe's goal: playoffs

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
1:03
AM ET
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe wasn't ready to raise expectations for his team after Thierry Henry's debut on Thursday night.

"The target is still to reach the playoffs," Backe said after the Red Bulls' 2-1 loss to Tottenham in the New York Barclays Challenge. "This a long-term process."

The Red Bulls, who finished last season 5-19-6 and in last place in the Eastern Conference, head into their July 31 showdown at Houston at 8-6-2 and in second place in the conference. So, clearly, the playoffs are a realistic goal.

FORWARD THINKING: Henry and forward Macoumba Kandji seemed out of synch periodically in their 45 minutes together on the pitch. Henry, of course, only had four practices with the Red Bulls before his first game, so it will take time to develop timing and chemistry up front.

Henry finished with two shots on goal. He missed a wide-open opportunity to score 6:38 into the first half. He broke in open on Tottenham keeperCarlo Cudicini but the goalie deflected his low shot.

ANGEL ON THE WAY: Look for forward and Red Bulls captain Juan Pablo Angel to be back in the lineup - and up front with Henry - no later than July 31 at Houston at the latest. Angel, who sprained his ankle against Columbus last Saturday, was listed as questionable for Thursday night's game. His status is unlikely to change for Sunday's game against Manchester City.

MENDEZ ON HENRY: Red Bulls defender Carlos Mendez has been thoroughly impressed with Henry in his first week with the team.

"He's humble, he's down to earth. He works hard every day," Mendez said of Henry. "In just the couple of days he's been here, you see how he already talks to the guys, interacts with the guys.

"When you're working with a guy like Henry, you want to step up your game. I think it's going to help everybody. We're looking to move forward and hopefully do well this year in the league."

Ian Begley

ESPN New York Writer

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