By IVES GALARCEP
Take a look in the New York Red Bulls locker room after any match over the last year and there is a good chance you could spot Heath Pearce grimacing in pain and struggling to move. It was easy to write off the scenes as those of a player who has given his all and is simply feeling the rigors of being an MLS defender.
As it turns out, there was more to Pearce’s pain than simple fatigue or battle aches.
Pearce is set to miss the remainder of the season as he prepares to undergo season-ending hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip that has been causing him pain for the better part of two years, sources confirmed to SBI.
The injury could put an end to Pearce’s year-and-a-half stint with the Red Bulls after arriving at Red Bull Arena as part of the blockbuster trade that sent young star forward Juan Agudelo to Chivas USA last spring.
Pearce’s play has deteriorated over the course of the 2013 season, this after being one of the best defenders in MLS over the preview two seasons. Adept at playing centerback and left back, Pearce struggled to show the same burst and defensive quality that the Red Bulls were hoping to receive when they dealt for him.
The surgery will require six months to recover, which leaves Pearce out for the remainder of the 2013 season, and remainder of his current MLS contract. He will be a free agent this winter, and could make a move abroad, or be traded by the Red Bulls, unless he and the Red Bulls can reach an agreement on a new trade.
Pearce’s injury would explain how a former U.S. Men’s National Team defender once regarded as one of the better defenders in MLS had been reduced to part-time starter on the Red Bulls.
Pearce’s injury strikes a major blow to a Red Bulls defense lacking depth in central defense as it is, and one that has seen the right back position become unsettled despite there being multiple players capable of playing the position.
Pearce’s departure from the Red Bulls defensive rotation could pave the way for some playing time for the team’s newest homegrown player signing, 18-year-old Matt Miazga. The New Jersey native is expected to be in the team’s 18-man roster for Sunday’s match against the Houston Dynamo, marking the first time he has been in the Red Bulls 18 since signing earlier this year.
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