Mike Petke will have to dig deep into his bench for the match against New England Revolution this Sunday
The former New York Red Bulls defender should be without five regular as he leads his team into New England to face the top team in the Eastern Conference. Tim Cahill and Roy Miller are preparing for the World Cup with Australia and Costa Rica, Dax McCarty picked up a knee injury against Sporting Kansas City and Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave won’t play because of the turf surface at Gillette Stadium.
New York is winless in its last four games and without its top players, which is why beating the red-hot Revolution seems impossible.
Henry and Olave are healthy but both players have a history of picking up injuries on artificial grass.
While speaking about Henry, Petke said, “He’s a guy that’s played 20-something years professionally and coming to MLS, it takes him weeks and weeks to recover after playing on those surfaces… plus he has an ailing history with his Achilles. It’s one of those things I said every year: You weigh the game against the season, and what’s more important?”
The French legend hasn’t been the most effective scorer this season, but he’s one of the reasons why Bradley Wright-Phillips has 11 goals this season. The two forwards have combined well to form a one-two punch. Henry is the creator, while Wright-Phillips is the finisher.
Olave is the best defender on Petke’s roster, but the Colombian’s knee should keep him out of the game on Sunday. “With his knee, he’s definitely in the same category [as Henry],” Petke said after practice on Thursday. “Like it’s been the last two-and-a-half years, like it’ll be in another month from now when we go wherever, it’s the same thing.”
McCarty’s injury is the biggest blow to a thin Red Bulls midfield. The 27-year-old veteran anchors the midfield and he’s the only defensive midfielder New York has. The US international has been a regular since his switch from DC United and he’s only missed one game this season, playing a total of 1209 minutes.
Petke can easily replace Olave, Cahill and Miller with Ibrahim Sekagya, Eric Alexander and Bobby Convey.
However, the second year coach doesn’t have players that can step into Henry and McCarty’s shoes with conviction. Former Paris Saint-Germain F.C. forward Peguy Luyindula has been excellent as an attacking midfielder this season, but he is a liability defensively. If Petke choses to start Luyindula, Alexander– a natural winger‒will have to be more defensive minded.
In his preferred 4-4-2 formation, Petke needs someone to play underneath Wright-Phillips. The former Manchester City forward has successfully played the No.9 position this season. He needs to play alongside a creative player in order to score.
The only striker on the Red Bulls’ bench is a target forward. Andre Akpan is a big forward that also relies on others to create chances for him. The former Colorado Rapids player has been ineffective since he moved to New York last season. He’s only appeared twice this year.
Petke could play Luyindula up top with the league’s leading scorer, but he’ll have use one of his inexperienced midfielders against New England’s adeptmidfield.
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