By DAN KARELL
The New York Red Bulls have had plenty of high-pressure games this season, including a season finale that saw them lift the Supporters’ Shield, but they face the biggest game of their season without arguably their best defender.
Jamison Olave was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge midway through the second half of the Red Bulls 2-2 draw with the Dynamo last Sunday. It was a decision that has plenty of fans worried, but Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke believes his team is more than capable of overcoming the loss.
“I think we’ve proven this year with our depth that we’re more than capable of inserting people in and keeping the same level of consistency,” Petke told reporters on Tuesday after training. “Of course, Olave is a big player for us, he’s one of the best defenders in the league, but we have guys also sitting behind him that we can make adjustments and not skip a beat.”
Markus Holgersson, who started a majority of the games this season at center back alongside Olave, is expected to slide over from right back to play next to summer signing Ibrahim Sekagya. Brandon Barklage and Kosuke Kimura are options to play at right back.
“If fortune favors us,” Petke said, “we’ll have Olave back Saturday.”
Here are some more notes from Tuesday’s practice:
MILLER EXPECTED TO MAKE THE BENCH
After missing more than two months with an Achilles injury, Roy Miller is edging closer to making his Red Bulls return.
The Costa Rican left back hasn’t played since being pulled with the injury in the Red Bulls’ 3-2 defeat at Chivas USA on Aug. 25. Since then, the Red Bulls haven’t lost in 10 games while David Carney has filled in at left back. Since returning to full training last week and improving his fitness, Petke feels that Miller is ready to step on the field.
“As of now I’m looking at Roy Miller being available for the 18,” Petke said. “I think it would be unwise to think of him as coming on and starting. He hasn’t played since Aug. 25, (but) he looks great, he looks like he’s in good spirits, the injury’s not giving him any problems, he has good fitness.
“I think he’d be more in a cover role. Perhaps we’ll see him in the second half if we need him.”
Prior to the injury, Miller had been enjoying a solid run of form, earning the confidence of the coaching staff despite a couple of costly early-season errors and postseason gaffes in the past.
PETKE WANTS DEFENDERS TO TAKE CHALLENGE PERSONALLY
Petke has challenged his defenders to make it their a personal challenge when they face the Dynamo on Wednesday night.
Though they didn’t score last Sunday, Will Bruin and Giles Barnes are both good MLS players, and Bruin especially, with his combination of speed and size, has the ability to score multiple goals in a game. Petke said that while he believed his team’s performance in the first leg was great at times, individual mistakes were the reason for the Dynamo’s comeback.
“I want our defenders to take pride,” Petke said. “I want them to challenge themselves and get a bit angry and edgy. I think that’s what they’ve done. Not just with (Bruin and Barnes) but over many games this season, they’ve stepped it up.”
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
- Petke said specifically that the Red Bulls need to be physical with Bruin and make sure they deny him any service from the wings.
- The Red Bulls coach said that despite having to host the second leg, he feels that they’ll have a great home field advantage, and they definitely have the advantage of being at home and not being tired from travel and games like the Dynamo likely are.
- In response to more questions about a curse over the team’s playoff hopes, Petke had this to say: “I feel like our team has been prepared this year tactically, mentally, and physically better than any team I’ve been a part of. My team is prepared and if (Wednesday) night we go out there and the Houston Dynamo come out and they play like Barcelona and they’re unreal and on fire, well we tip our hats to them if we don’t get it done. Aside from that, I feel good about our team.”
What do you think of these notes? Do you feel confident in the Red Bulls without Olave? Do you see Miller playing in the second half? Do you believe that the Red Bulls players will step up to the challenge?
Share your thoughts below.