Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By CARL SETTERLUND
The New York Red Bulls have a game in hand over three of the five Eastern Conference teams currently in playoff position, but the club is set to face a hectic eight-day stretch that could go a long way in determining their postseason chances.
Unfortunately for the Red Bulls (7-8-10), they will be without the influential Tim Cahill for at least this Saturday’s game against Sporting Kansas City and perhaps for the rematch of last weekend’s loss to D.C. United as well.
Cahill, who has been called to the Australian national team, is set to feature for the Socceroos in friendlies against Belgium on Thursday and Saudi Arabia next Monday. That leaves Cahill with under 48 hours to get back to New Jersey for a home fixture against D.C. next Wednesday.
Red Bulls coach Mike Petke was asked on a Tuesday conference call whether Cahill would only be missing this weekend’s game.
“I’m going to have to check, but to be honest with you, I was under the impression it would be more than that,” Petke said.
Petke was also asked whether New York’s other two offensive stars — Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry — could play in all three games coming up.
“We take that on a game-to-game thing,” Petke said. “Perhaps it is a lot to ask of them, but I know those are two guys who always want to play and they’re also two guys that are honest on how they’re feeling.”
The second-year coach noted that recent trade acquisition Saer Sene — who scored his first Red Bulls in a CONCACAF Champions League game last week — might factor in.
“We’re going to have to utilize everything we have,” Petke said.
PETKE SHOULDERS BLAME FOR ROBLES MISCUE VERSUS D.C.
While Petke called the second goal of New York’s 2-0 loss last Sunday to D.C. a “garbage time” goal, on Tuesday he took some of the pressure off goalkeeper Luis Robles on United’s 57th-minute opener.
Robles was caught out in nowhere-land on Luis Silva’s go-ahead tally, which came almost directly off of a D.C. goal kick. Petke said he spoke with Robles about the goal on Monday and that Robles took responsibility for the inauspicious sequence.
“Not many players do that nowadays, not many players stand up and take accountability,” Petke said. “I’m proud of him for doing that. Having said that, I don’t think he should take blame at all. If anybody should take blame it should be me for many reasons.”
Petke said he had told Robles to play a high line, and to come off his line for through balls, such as the Fabian Espindola header that advanced the ball to Silva.
DUVALL HAMSTRING INJURY NOT SERIOUS
Rookie right back Chris Duvall had to be helped off with a hamstring injury in the 63rd minute of the D.C. game, but it appears the injury wasn’t as bad as it first looked and he will likely be ready to return to this weekend.
Petke attributed the muscle injury to the normal rigors of a rookie adjusting to an MLS season, saying, “He was going to hit a point where he got tired, and that’s what happened.”
NO WORRIES ABOUT LACK OF SCORING LAST WEEKEND
Despite getting shutout for the second time this month, Petke said he was able to take away positives from last weekend’s performance in which the Red Bulls outshot D.C. 18 to 9.
“We had countless opportunities, legitimate chances to score,” Petke said. “We put ourselves in those positions to score and they just didn’t fall for us.”
Clarifying what he meant, Petke said, “We’re not talking about a 30-yard shot that hit the crossbar – that’s a one out of 10 you’ll almost score on that. We’re talking inside the box.”