Red Bulls focus on fullback issues ahead of Toronto match

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

New York Red Bulls fullback Roy Miller has left to join Costa Rica in preparation for the World Cup.

That puts New York in a precarious position.

The longest tenured Red Bull has also been their most reliable defensive asset this season. He will be missing four matches leading into the World Cup — and possibly more if Costa Rica plays spoiler and advances deep into the tournament.

Filling in his shoes will not be easy, particularly against their next opponent, Toronto FC.

“It’s about analyzing that [encounter],” says Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “The players we have in mind will have very good opportunities to show us they want to play left back this Saturday.”

Previously, Petke mentioned Bobby Convey and Connor Lade as possible options at the left. Another option, Kosuke Kimura, can also be considered. However, the right back spot is also in a state of flux.

Like many of his teammates, the Japanese defender suffered several mental lapses in a deflating loss to the Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena last week. Petke doesn’t blame Kimura for the result, despite his unsteady play. He does, however, revert back to one of his favorite mantras for answers at the fullback spot, hoping “competition” yields the most fitting starting candidate.

“To me, there are three players competing for that spot; Chris Duvall, Richard Eckersley and Kosuke Kimura,” the Red Bull boss explains. “Let’s make one thing clear; 90% of our team had a rough one this weekend. It doesn’t just come down to Kosuke. Obviously, he had a hand in one of the goals, but it was an anomaly.

“It’s not just Kosuke. We have young Chris Duvall who continues to impress us week in and week out. He is not far out. Kosuke has had some good performances. This one, it wasn’t like he was the only one that had some moments this game. Everybody did.”

Regardless of his struggles containing the Fire attack, Kimura has been a vital stop gap for the Red Bulls. Eckersley was the player New York hoped would take the starting title early in the season. As his form waned and injuries staggered, Kimura took on the starting role and has played a steady presence on the right since.

That is one reason amongst many which will allow Kimura to see another game.

“It’s not pushing the destruct button to blow up the lineup and throw new players in,” Petke insists. “You will see two definite changes with the loss of Tim [Cahill] and Roy, but you could possibly see one or two more changes as well.”

“Overall, no one was as crushed as they were after that game and we have to learn from it,” stresses Petke. “One thing we made clear is it won’t happen again.”