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Injuries finally taking a toll on Red Bulls

Red bulls v revs (getty images)


Earlier this season, a decimated New York Red Bulls lineup managed to tie a club record for consecutive victories with five wins in a row despite heavy losses to their starting eleven. Bench players, newcomers and rookies all helped keep the Red Bulls' season afloat, securing three shutouts while outscoring opponents, 8-3.

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe credited role players such as Tyler Ruthven, Connor Lade, Brandon Barklage and Dax McCarty for the impressive run, but was always quick to point out the role luck played in the team’s achievement

Has luck run out?

“It’s annoying (to play without guys because of injuries.),” admitted Backe after the Red Bulls' 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution on Sunday. “We haven’t played two games in a row with a full-strength team, and if you look now with the guys – with [Jan Gunnar] Solli out, [Markus] Holgersson out, [Heath] Pearce out, [Rafa] Marquez out, [Teemu] Tainio out, Henry out – that is six starters.

"So in a way, you can say that the depth this year is very good. These guys played quite well a month ago, and I think we won five in a row with almost the same team. But, at the end of the day, you cannot pick up wins as we did earlier.

“We could have gotten a tie, but we are without six regulars. I cannot expect much more from these guys. They did what they could do with the energy they showed in the second half. Of course, we are too short-handed.”

As it stands, the Red Bulls are now in the midst of a dramatic slowdown to their year. The team still boasts an impressive 9-5-4 record overall, but are currently on a 1-2-3 record over their past six matches. Their latest letdown may have been the most damning indicator yet that the Red Bulls simply cannot continue to sustain such depletion to their roster.

Thierry Henry, who recently returned to the lineup after battling hamstring issues, has now picked up another injury that further prohibits his ability to play under certain conditions.

“He has a problem with his calf,” Backe said.  “Every time he does turf games, he picks up a calf issue. So we cannot play him on these kinds of turf.”

Fellow designated player Rafa Marquez also missed the trip to New England with a calf strain.  With the coming three-game homestand, resting Marquez in preparation for these matches was the wisest move in the eyes of the team.

However, that didn’t stop him from traveling out to Tamarit in Tarragona, Spain to take part in the wedding of former Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta.

Even New York’s latest acquisition, Heath Pearce, who was recently rewarded a spot in the MLS All Star’s starting eleven, won’t be available to play for at least the next two weeks. The versatile Pearce, who can perform in any position on the backline and the defensive midfield role as well, was brought into the team in order to cushion against the injuries that were decimating the side. Now, he is yet another victim to the injury bug that has haunted this team all year long.

For now, Backe hopes to squeeze as much out of his reserves as he can until the team nurses its way back to health. 

“Hopefully when it comes into October, November, we’ll play off some things like that,” he said.  “[The reserves] have got good minutes, competitive minutes in this league, and that will help us if we pick up injuries. I think now it’s just about looking for three, four more weeks and probably all of the guys will be back then.”

Until then, one would have to wonder whether luck will continue to be on the side of this team.


  1. Wondering what the average age of starters (not counting injuries) NYRB have versus the other teams in MLS.

    Backe takes a lot of flacke (see what I did there?) for signing a bunch of european re-treads, and that includes me.

    Is it deserved, or just a common blasting point that has no merit?

  2. Oh, good! You took my advice last night in the NE-NY story about how you should talk more about the Red Bulls’ injuries!

    It’s so nice to see this website’s responsiveness to readers’ wishes…

  3. Welcome to the world FC Dallas has been playing in all year. One of the commentators for the 4th of July game said that FCD starters had missed a total of 70 games at that point which averaged out to be 4 starters per game.

  4. “Every time he has turf games, he picks up a calf issue”
    Just how many actual turf games has Thierry Henry played since he’s been in MLS?. I’m guessing it wouldnt’t make up a half of ones hand.

  5. I can’t speak for the other MLS teams, but Seattle has had as many if not more injuries. Seattle won with smoke and mirrors and then went through a winless streak.
    I am guessing it is part of the game. If you don’t have injuries then you are likely at the top of the standings, see SJ or if you are like Portland you just suck.

    I would agree older DP players aren’t the best answer

  6. I love and respect Thierry Henry just as much as the next guy, but he’s more fragile than a teacup.

    How do RBNY’s “seniors” (Henry, Marquez, Conde) stack up against other playes their age in MLS in terms of games played versus games missed? For the three of them together, my guess is that they have been available for much less than 50% of the team’s games since they joined the club. I hope Soler is paying atention as he searches for the next DP.


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