Photo by Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports
By DAN KARELL
The New York Red Bulls expect to welcome back one of their most dynamic players when they take the field in a nationally televised matchup on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo.
After missing the Red Bulls disastrous 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the LA Galaxy last Sunday evening, Lloyd Sam is expected to return to the lineup as the Red Bulls fight for their playoff lives in the final stretch of the season.
“Lloyd is looking good,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said in his weekly press conference. “Lloyd’s expected, knock on some wood, to be back for this weekend. His was a minor thing that we didn’t feel comfortable taking a chance with.”
Sam was subbed out in the 17th minute of the Red Bulls scoreless draw at Salvadorian club FAS last Wednesday with a hamstring injury. Following a season where he was used mostly as an impact substitute, Sam has become a key player for the Red Bulls, scoring three goals and adding eight assists in 28 starts this year.
While Sam is close to full fitness, the Red Bulls’ left-sided midfielder, Ambroise Oyongo is looking unlikely to return any time soon.
“Oyongo’s situation is a bit worse,” Petke said. “He’s got what looks to be a decent hamstring injury. He wasn’t even a question for the last game and I don’t believe he’ll be a question for this weekend. You never know. He’s young and he could have a heck of a recovery for a couple of days. But I’m not planning on having him this weekend.”
Here are some more notes from Petke’s press conference:
CAHILL, MILLER, CALLED UP, OYONGO LIKELY AS WELL
With one more FIFA date during the regular season, the Red Bulls are likely to be without at least two of their starters when they take on Toronto FC at home on Oct. 11, in the middle of a FIFA international break.
Petke spilled the beans on Tuesday by stating that paperwork had arrived for both Tim Cahill and Roy Miller to be called up to their respective national teams, Australia and Costa Rica. Petke also said that he thought the club had received paperwork for Oyongo to be called up again by Cameroon.
Considering it’s a crucial stretch of the season, Petke said he and the club would speak with the players, but that the final say is in their hands.
“For FIFA dates you can’t say no,” Petke said, “but we’re in talks with all the federations and players and hopefully we’ll figure this out. Would I like to lose these guys? No. But at the end of the day my hands are tied. It’s not up to me unfortunately.”
REPLACEMENT FOR OLAVE
When the Red Bulls take on the Dynamo on Saturday, they’ll be without the team’s most dominant defender.
Jamison Olave picked up another yellow card in the 4-0 defeat to the Galaxy and will miss the upcoming match due to yellow-card accumulation, giving Petke an extra problem to think about this week as he prepares for the match.
“It’s a big loss for us, but we have by my count, five centerbacks, so we have more than enough to be able to pick from,” Petke said. “Now its about the next couple of days for somebody stepping up and claiming the spot as theirs. I have a decent idea of who (it will be).”
After starting Olave alongside Ibrahim Sekagya, Petke can turn to any of Armando, Matt Miazga or Damien Perrinelle to start on Saturday.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
- With three consecutive home games ahead and the Red Bulls currently in the final playoff spot, Petke claimed that the team’s destiny is “in our hands.”
- Petke took offense to those calling the lineup against CD FAS a “B-Side,” claiming that it had plenty of experience and talent and that the Red Bulls dominated FAS. “We took (the game) seriously, and it just fall our way on the day, and we get on with it,” Petke said.
- Petke said that he’ll speak to Chris Duvall on Wednesday to help raise his confidence after a rough performance at the Dynamo. “He learned a lot of valuable lessons in that game,” Petke said of Duvall. “He definitely had a ‘Welcome to MLS’ moment.”
- After facing Landon Donovan for potentially the last time, outside of a possible MLS Cup final meeting, Petke stated that he wants Donovan to stay in the league because he elevates the stature of the league and sport in the USA.
What do you think of these notes? Do you see Sam helping the Red Bulls rebound from their tough loss? Who do you see replacing Olave in the lineup? How should the Red Bulls replace Cahill and Miller vs. Toronto FC?
Share your thoughts below.