By FRANCO PANIZO
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — When New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said Tuesday that Lloyd Sam needs to return to fitness and get back to ‘a mentality level’ to be considered for selection, questions were raised as to what he meant by that.
Now we know.
Petke offered a clarification on Wednesday as to what it will take for Sam to dress for the first time this season, saying the dynamic 28-year-old midfielder – who has not traveled with the Red Bulls in either of their first two games – needs to be dedicated to working hard regardless of if he is a starter or not.
“I need to see every day that every player is committed to the position that they’re in,” said Petke. “Whether it’s a reserve player, whether it’s a starter, whether it’s on the verge, when I look around, I want to see everybody tuned in and see everybody clicked in.
“There’s many things I mean by a mentality level: Understanding his role, in a way, being okay to work and to get back to that position and I need to see all that combined into one. You see a guy like Eric Alexander, who played right midfield against San Jose, he had a goal and he worked his ass off. That’s the type of mentality that I want.”
As far as Sam goes, he feels he is ready both in terms of his fitness and mentality.
“I want to be involved. I’m available,” Sam told SBI. “I feel fitter, so I feel ready, so I’m waiting to be put in.”
Here are more notes from Wednesday’s Red Bulls practice:
MILLER ADMITS TO ENCROACHING INTENTIONALLY
Roy Miller has had a history of blunders and mental lapses during his time with the Red Bulls but his latest one might take the cake.
After being whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area late in last Sunday’s match vs. the San Jose Earthquakes, Miller negated goalkeeper Luis Robles’ save on Chris Wondolowski’s penalty kick attempt by encroaching. Wondolowski scored on the retake and New York lost, 2-1.
Why, however, would Miller step into the box only moments after surrendering the penalty kick? Miller says because he meant to.
“I did it on purpose with the thought that Wondolowski would miss [on the retake],” said Miller. “Simply, I wasn’t in agreement with the situation that was going on and the penalty kick being given, because for me the handball didn’t have to be called but some refs call it and some don’t.
“I did it so that if [Wondolowski] made it, he would have to do it again and then he missed. I had the unfortunate luck that Luis saved the initial attempt.”
JUNINHO, MEARA BACK IN FULL PRACTICE
While Juninho returned to training on Wednesday for the first time in a week, arguably just as big of a development for the Red Bulls was goalkeeper Ryan Meara also partaking in training. It was the first time Meara had practiced alongside his teammates since undergoing season-ending hip surgery last season.
“Ryan’s not obviously ready for this weekend but it was very encouraging to see him be in more plays than he has been throughout preseason,” said Petke. “It was nice to see him out there. He took one in the face today, which is good I think.
“It reminds them of what being a goalie is about, so very happy that he was out there today.”
Meara did not participate in the full session, stopping after some small-sided games about midway through practice.
RED BULLS ON BRINK OF SIGNING LUYINDULA
The Red Bulls will likely soon have another option up top.
Petke said the club is close to agreeing to a deal with forward trialist Peguy Luyindula, the 33-year-old Frenchman who has been with New York since preseason.
“He has done exactly what we had hoped he would do and the price is phenomenal,” said Petke. “As far as that’s concerned, I know nothing has been signed, but we’re very close, leaning towards signing him.”
The addition of Luyindula, who has been improving with each passing week that he has been with the Red Bulls, will give the club some much-needed depth at forward. Aside from Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola, the only other forwards on the Red Bulls’ roster are youngsters Josue Martinez and Amando Moreno.
Think Sam should be given a chance to start this weekend? What do you make of Miller’s admission? Do you see Meara earning the starting spot once he is back into a rhythm?
Share your thoughts below.