HANOVER, N.J. — Having spent the first three years of his Major League Soccer career in the Western Conference with Vancouver, New York Red Bulls defender Tim Parker is keenly aware of what challenges the LA Galaxy pose on attack.
“A lot of savviness, a lot of creativity. A lot of those guys love to be on the ball, so they like to share the ball. Around the box they’re creative, so we just always have to make sure we’re keeping tabs on their special players,” Parker said. “We really have to limit their chances. The longer we can frustrate them in this game, the better off we’ll be.”
Parker knows that he and Aaron Long, his partner in central defense, have their hands full to try and keep Ibra off the scoresheet.
“I’m excited,” Parker said of the challenge. “To play against a player of his caliber and to see what he’s already done in this league, it’s going to be big for me and Aaron to obviously keep him limited. We have to frustrate them, keep them in their own half and just get in their heads a bit. We want to make sure they’re not having an easy day.”
Ibrahimovic has three goals since his much ballyhooed move from Manchester United a month ago — both in LA Galaxy wins. They are 0-2 in games the Swedish icon doesn’t score, including a 2-0 home defeat to an Atlanta United team that starved his service and kept Ibrahimovic without a shot for the first time in his short MLS career.
“Service will be key, but if you focus too much on stopping him in the box when the ball goes wide, I think he’s more dangerous at coming underneath and finding plays,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “I thought Atlanta did really well. Their game plan and the way they limited the Galaxy in that game was quite good.”
The match against the Galaxy is the beginning of a difficult stretch for the Red Bulls (3-3-0, 9 points), which includes the first Hudson River Derby showdown with New York City FC next Saturday and back-to-back road games against the Colorado Rapids and Atlanta United.
“It’s important for us to continue to understand that we like our team, we think we have a good team, but we’re only as good as the performances of each player and the ability for everybody to be on top of their own tactical details and mentality,” Marsch said.
The talk early in the week for the Red Bulls was about being “outcompeted” by the Fire, according to midfielder Sean Davis. The challenge to avoid that will be daunting against a Galaxy side that have dropped their last two games in Carson by identical 2-0 scorelines.
“We know we have a tough stretch of games coming up, very good teams we’re about to play,” Davis said. “Going to LA, they’re in somewhat of a desperate situation where they haven’t gotten all the results at home. We know they’re a very good team. We do feel confident in ourselves, we have a lot of good games under our belt, but we know we need to show up in a big way and that it’s going to take a complete performance to get three points.”