Photo by ISIphotos.com
BY DYLAN BUTLER
When Juan Carlos Osorio looked to improve his team's depth during the off-season, it was stretches like this the New York Red Bulls coach had in mind. New York will play the first of four matches in a 10-day stretch tonight at CommunityAmerica Ballpark against a Kansas City Wizards team unbeaten in three straight matches after opening the season with back-to-back losses.
The Red Bulls return home to face Eastern Conference foe D.C. United on Sunday, quickly turn around and fly to California to take on the San Jose Earthquakes in a Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday and then meet the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center next Saturday.
"That's why we put so much effort into making the team, because we tried to have two players per position so when games are scheduled almost back-to-back, then we hopefully have good options to choose from," Osorio said.
With the hopes of competing on three different fronts (MLS, Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League), there are more stretches like this likely later in the season.
"I think he's giving everyone a chance because the team is really strong right now," Danleigh Borman said. "We have a lot of players who can play, so he's rotating the team. We have a lot of games these two weeks coming up."
Osorio hinted at changes to his starting lineup following a 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake last Saturday and those changes could come on the flank with both Borman and Matthew Mbuta training with the first team this week. Borman came off the bench against RSL to replace struggling Khano Smith and with Alfredo Pacheco locking down the left back position, Borman is the likely candidate to get the nod in favor of Smith. Mbuta could replace Dane Richards, who is also in an early-season funk.
Rookie Jeremy Hall will be serving a one-game suspension for his straight red card against RSL, but Carlos Johnson is back after his one-game ban and should start at right back.
One player who is not available is Spanish midfielder Albert Celades, who is out with a hamstring strain unitl the Galaxy game at the earliest.
"We are monitoring him very carefully and very closely and (Red Bulls trainer) Rick (Guter) is on top of the situation," Osorio said. "Albert is a top professional with plenty of years of experience, so we all sit down and talk and at the moment I think he is doing well. I have not set myself for a specific day, but I think maybe for next weekend he'll be in contention."
Danny Cepero is fully fit after his Kei Kamara-induced concussion and while Osorio said both he and Conway are in contention, the favorite to start tonight would be Conway, especially coming off a good performance against RSL.
"It is a difficult decision," Osorio said. "As I've always said, I value Danny's contributionand what he has done for the club, but I also know Jon had a very good comeback and good game. Hopefully we get the decision right."