Photo by John Gellebter/USA TODAY Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
In the wake of headlines regarding a potential sale, the speculated retirement of Thierry Henry and a rumored rift between Tim Cahill and the club’s front office, New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke has certainly endured a difficult week.
However, with three points in the bag following a 1-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo and a crucial clash with Toronto FC coming on Saturday, Petke insists that his team remains unfazed despite the distractions.
“The thing is that everybody is concentrated on the season,” Petke said Monday on a conference call. “Nothing that happened last week, and I’ve said it a number of times, threw anybody for a loop. Nothing was mentioned about a sale of a team or Thierry’s future in practice until Friday when I was asked by a reporter. It’s never been an issue with us. We’re completely focused.
“There was no issue, no headaches at all from the players’ standpoint at all this last week.”
Petke also said he was finished talking about the Cahill saga, which took another turn on Saturday when the Australian came off the bench in the 85th minute and was sent off three minutes later for a dangerous tackle.
Here are some more of Monday’s Red Bulls news and notes:
RED BULLS DEPTH TO BE TESTED DUE TO INTERNATIONAL CALL UPS
With just three games left in the regular season, the Red Bulls are set to lose a trio of regulars heading into what might just be the most important game of the year.
Ambroise Oyongo, Tim Cahill and Roy Miller are all set to miss out on Saturday’s clash with Toronto FC, but Petke has faith in his side’s depth, even despite the absences of two of the team’s top left sided players.
“It’s not ideal for us, obviously, but we can do any number of things,” Petke said. “We have Kosuke (Kimura). We have Chris Duvall. We have (Richard) Eckersley. We could play a centerback out there. We can play three at the back. We have options… Yes, big losses, but we’ve dealt with big losses many times this year and we’ve come through.”
The Red Bulls even have the option of recalling defender Connor Lade, who has spent the a portion of the season on-loan with the New York Cosmos.
“Nothing’s out of the question at this point, to be honest with you,” Petke said on a possible Lade return.” You sit back and you look and you have to do, especially at this point in the season, crunch time, what’s best that we can put out there and what’s best that we can have. We have a decent sized roster, so everybody’s in the conversation, for sure.
DUVALL FACING REST DUE TO ROOKIE BURNOUT
Saturday’s victory over the Houston Dynamo was notable due to a pair of changes to the club’s defense.
One was made my necessity, as centerback Jamison was forced to miss out due to suspension. The other was by choice, as Petke and fullback Chris Duvall agreed that the rookie was starting to feel the exhaustion that comes from a full MLS season.
“With Duvall, Duvall’s a day-to-day thing to see when we see a noticeable difference that he’s had his time to recover,” Petke said. “It’s never easy for someone like Chris to come in from a college season that’s two months and then, from preseason on, he’s looking at 10 months or so. It’s a tough thing.
“At this point, that’s going to be under a microscope for us on a daily basis, to see how he’s doing, how he’s feeling, and then we make a decision from there.”
PETKE UNCONCERNED WITH PLAYOFF SEEDING
With just six points separating places three through seven, the Eastern Conference playoff race is tight to say the least.
Although the Red Bulls have a realistic chance at hopping into the top half of the playoff qualifiers, Petke remains unconcerned with the team’s seeding, even if it means a spot in the midweek opening round games.
“If you just look at our approach, as it should be, we want to win every game and that’s all that we can do,” Petke said. “Whatever the other teams do and what place we fall in is a secondary thought. It’s about making the playoffs by any measure, as it is with any team. I’m not thinking about scenarios or trying to avoid a fourth place game because, at the end of the day, my focus is to win these next three games and then there’s nothing else that we can do.
“It’s all about this next game,” Petke continued. “This next game is everything until the final whistle blows. Then the next game is everything. Huge being that, the position that their in, and being an Eastern Conference game, of course, this is a big, big game for the club. The players recognize that already. They realize it and they’re already, based on the conversations I’ve had, focusing solely on Toronto, so that’s a good sign for us.”
What do you think of these notes? How do you see the Red Bulls faring this weekend against TFC? How do you expect Petke to handle the international absences? What do you think of Duvall’s play to this point this season?
Share your thoughts below.