Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
When the tests returned on Tim Cahill’s banged up knee, the New York Red Bulls learned that they would be without a leader on the team and one of their best players this season for up to a month.
On his weekly conference call with the press, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said that Cahill would miss the next 3-4 weeks with a torn PCL in his right knee. The injury occurred in the fourth minute of the team’s 4-3 victory last Saturday against Real Salt Lake, when Yordany Alvarez kept his studs in the air on a late challenge, receiving just a yellow card for his actions.
With Cahill on the sidelines, the likely successor in the middle is Eric Alexander, a central midfielder by trade who has been used for much of the season as a right midfielder.
“I’m not about to say whose going to play where but obviously Eric is a very big candidate to step in from his outside position, 100 percent,” Petke said on Tuesday. “I would sense by tomorrow morning practice, after more meetings I have today with the staff and then tomorrow morning coming in early and getting the guys at practice, we should have a pretty good idea of which way we’re going.”
Here are some more notes from this week’s Red Bulls conference call:
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS UNAVAILABLE DUE TO VISA WAIT
Though they signed him officially seven days ago, Bradley Wright-Phillips has been forced to watch the recent Red Bulls action from the sidelines.
The 28-year-old Englishman is still awaiting his P-1 Visa to compete in the United States, and Petke has already ruled him out of playing this Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.
Bradley’s not part of the equation because as far as I know he doesn’t have his P-1 Visa, so that’s going to take him going back to London,” Petke said. “I believe even if he was to get on a plane tomorrow to go I don’t think he’ll be ready to play Saturday.”
Once Wright-Phillips receives his Visa, he’ll add to the growing forward depth, but also be able to contribute on the wings, and potentially push for a place on the right side of midfield while Cahill is out injured.
OBEKOP AND SAM FIGHTING FOR A STARTING SPOT
The Cahill injury looks to have a domino effect on the Red Bulls side.
If Alexander does slide over into the center of midfield, then the right midfield spot is open for the likes of Wright-Phillips when he acquires his Visa, as well as two current members, Lloyd Sam and Marius Obekop. Over the course of the season, Sam has predominantly played on the outside right, but in recent weeks, Obekop has played significant time all over the field, whether on the right, left, or as an attacking central midfielder.
For Petke, all options are open to deal with the likely open starting position.
“You have a guy like Lloyd [Sam] who has shown some good stuff coming on late in the game,” Petke said. “There are some things about Lloyd as far as putting him in a 90-minute game with all the defensive work we’re going to have to do and quick going forward. You know, a guy like Kosuke [Kimura], Brandon [Barklage] we can step up, Marius Obekop. We have some options.
“It’s just a matter of whose going to fill the need of how we want to play and how we want to approach this game (against Sporting KC).
PETKE NOT WORRIED ABOUT HENRY AT ALL-STAR GAME
Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry is in the middle of an interesting week.
As a member of the MLS All-Stars in their match against AS Roma on Wednesday evening, Henry will play (and captain) the side in Kansas City. His coach for the game will be Peter Vermes, the head coach of Sporting KC, who are playing the Red Bulls this Saturday.
Would Peter Vermes deliberately keep Henry on the field on Wednesday to lessen his impact on Saturday? Petke doesn’t seem to think so.
Peter [Vermes] is smart enough,” Petke said. “First of all I don’t think Peter would ever do something like this because he is very professional and he’s always been great. But obviously it wouldn’t look good if he played my guy excessive minutes and his guys got taken off at half or something like that. It’s something that obviously he wouldn’t do, even from the perception he knows it would be an issue and a problem talked about. So I’m not worried about that. It’s an All-Star game.”
Due to Cahill’s injury, he was replaced on the roster by the Philadelphia Union’s Jack McInerney, leaving Henry as the only Red Bulls member on the All-Star squad.
What do you think of these notes? Do you believe Alexander is the best player to take over Cahill’s position? Do you see the Wright-Phillips playing for the Red Bulls on August 10 vs. Columbus Crew?
Share your thoughts below.