BY DAVE MARTINEZ
From the season opener to the present day, the Red Bulls have been steadily fighting (and overcoming) injuries all year long. Saturday’s match against the Union continued that trend as comeback player Brandon Barklage fell with a hamstring injury despite New York’s victory.
Nevertheless, players are finally starting to heal and it looks like the club may be a few weeks away from full strength.
Coach Hans Backe touched upon a variety of health issues after Wednesday’s practice, starting with the latest victim to the team’s injury bug..
“No chance,” Backe said of Barklage’s chances to play against Montreal. “It’s a minimum 9-10 days,” he said, pointing towards an August tilt against Houston as a likely return date. Jonathan Borrajo, who made his first appearance with the club against the Union, will likely get the nod in Barklage’s absence. “It's not easy to come on like that,” Backe said of Borrajo’s debut. “If you look at the defending, of course he has to work on 1 v 1 but that will come. It's his debut, it's not easy to come on. It's a tough game against Philly. Overall, I was pleased and it was good to see.”
Jan Gunnar Solli and Heath Pearce played in their first team sessions and will be analyzed this week to see if either is ready to rejoin the team up North. “(Solli) looks quite okay, and did about 60-70% of session today,” he said. “I would guess he is available. I don't know with Pearce.”
One surprise was the potential return of Teemu Tainio, who participated in training with the club.
“We don't know yet when Teemu is back. Perhaps he can be available for the bench on Saturday if he responds well (this week),” Backe cautioned. “This is also his first full session with the team so sometimes injuries pop up when you have been away that long.”
As for rookie of the year candidate Ryan Meara, he also participated to the side at Wednesday’s practice, going through keeper drills while the rest of the team played a small sided scrimmage. Backe wouldn’t comment on his availability, but did say, “It's a very easy choice. You will see on Saturday,” with a sly smirk.
Meara addressed his injury with SBI and expressed his desire to start against Montreal.
“(My hip) was kind of bothering me for a couple of weeks, like a slight little thing,” he explained. “Then in that New England game when I got into that collision in the first half and went down, it jarred it a little, more so after the game. It was pretty painful. They said it was a strain in my hip flexor but now I feel good and I was able to practice today.
“Hopefully this weekend I would be good to go. Let's see how I respond and see how tomorrow goes, but I hope so.”
RED BULLS, BACKE STAY MUM ON CAHILL
Even though Tim Cahill was prominently on display during last night’s MLS All Star game and even Thierry Henry acknowledged the Everton great was simply waiting approval from a physical in order to join the team, the New York Red Bulls are still quiet about the deal.
Hans Backe, who has been perhaps the most vocal member of the team’s front office in regards to player acquisitions over the past few months, has completely shut down his statements on potential transfers. When asked about the potential acquisition of, or a player in the mold of a Tim Cahill, his answer stayed consistent.
“Talk to Erik (Soler) about it.”
NEWS AND NOTES
- Hans Backe on the team’s tactics: “I think we are playing 4-3-3,” he said. “It's just numbers. The thing is, if you look at numbers and plays, it's all about how your lineup on attack. Every team defends in 4-5-1 or a 4-4-2; it's just numbers. It's all about how you allow your players to attack. I would say we play 2-4-4. I would say so, just to be a bit arrogant because that's the way we attack.”
- The Red Bulls will be monitoring the condition of Rafa Marquez this week, making a decision on his availability by Friday.
- Touching on the health of Barklage, Backe did reveal that Heath Pearce could also, when healthy, be a fill in option at the position.