By DAVE MARTINEZ
“I don’t think we ever played a game (this season) with the same team two games in a row,” Hans Backe lamented after Friday’s training session.
It looks like this week won’t be any different.
The New York Red Bulls will be missing up to six starters, including Designated Players Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez and teammates Jan Gunnar Solli, Markus Holgersson, Heath Pearce and Teemu Tainio for this weekend’s match against the New England Revolution. The loss will certainly weigh heavily for the visitors, who will be trying to break a 10-year winless record at Gilette Stadium this Sunday.
New England’s turf pitch will likely sideline Henry as the Red Bulls captain deals with ongoing calf problems. Marquez’s availability will be decided based on tomorrow’s training. Both players participated in Friday’s practice.
Markus Holgersson returned to the pitch, taking part in light jogging sessions. Backe is expecting the big Swedish defender to return by month’s end, possibly in time for the team’s friendly against Tottenham. Wilman Conde is expected to get the start against New England, likely to be paired with either Stephen Keel or Tyler Ruthven in the heart of the defense. Meanwhile, Heath Pearce will be unavailable as he recovers from what Backe labeled a “soft” right hamstring strain. He is expected to be back with the team in two weeks.
As for Solli, he will receive a scan Friday to determine the extent of his injuries. Depending on the findings, the Norwegian may see minutes against the Revolution. “If it looks OK, then he will probably be available,” Backe said.
The roster depletion is nothing new to Backe, who brushed off any concerns about this weekend’s matchup.
“If you remember, when we won five in a row, we were in the same situation and these guys stepped up,” he noted. “We were a little bit lucky in these games, but we had almost clean sheets 3 of the 5 games, so as I said, we are quite happy to have this depth this year. If this was last year, we would have lost these games.”
TAINIO'S RECOVERY OUTLOOK IMPROVES
Six weeks ago, it looked like Tainio’s playing days were over. A severe knee injury threatened the midfielder’s career. Today, Backe painted a much more positive outlook for the oft-injured veteran.
“Perhaps at the end of the month he can be back in training, and that is a bonus for us,” he said. Nevertheless, the Red Bulls coach emphasized that the team would “still look for a midfield player” regardless of his progress.
New York has played Dax McCarty, Marquez, Pearce and Mehdi Ballouchy in defensive midfield at various times since Tainio’s untimely injury.
NEWS AND NOTES
- Heads certainly turned when the Montreal Impact announced the signing of Alessandro Nesta in a non-DP deal, but it was a caveat in the deal –- an allocation payment to the Red Bulls -– that caught the attention of many.
By using a discovery claim, the Impact were forced to buy the first-priority rights from the Red Bulls in order to enter negotiations with the star Italian defender.
“That’s not so much money,” Backe revealed. “I haven’t seen yet in two and a half years that we’ve been able to use allocation money to get players. You just have to get the plastic with the money and put them on the pitch and see if they can play. It’s difficult.”
- Roy Miller and Dane Richards were part of a training scuffle earlier in the week, as teammates had to separate the two from exchanging blows. Though Backe would have liked to see the fight escalate a bit, tempers calmed and cooler heads prevailed.
“Things happen,” Miller said. “That’s personal, it happened and things are normal.”
- In transfer news, Backe denied any loan deals being extended to New York by sister club Red Bull Salzburg. There also is no update on the possible return of former forward Luke Rodgers.