New York Red Bull’s coach Hans Backe revealed yet another piece of devastating news on the team’s injury front after today’s practice session at Montclair. Centerback Stephen Keel has picked up a stress fracture in his back that will keep him out of action for three to four weeks.
That news dog-pile’s atop a potpourri of ailments that have simply decimated the Red Bull’s backline. Wilman Conde and Teemu Tainio won’t be available until the end of May. Roy Miller is likely to return after the Galaxy match on May 6th. To make matters worse, Jan Gunnar Solli is getting his leg scanned to measure just how severe a calf strain picked up during the DC United clash really is.
In a best case scenario, only one player on the backline, Solli, would have an MLS resume of over ten games come this weekend’s encounter against the New England Revolution. In a more than likely worst case scenario, three rookies and a shaky Major League Soccer newcomer will be protecting 2012 MLS second round draft pick and current starting goalkeeper, Ryan Meara.
Either way you look at it, New York will be forced to rely heavily on Markus Holgersson. The Swedish international has had a less than stellar start to his Red Bull career. Failing to find chemistry with the aforementioned Keel, the centerback duo has been victimized for 14 goals through seven matches; second worst in all of MLS. Holgersson has been personally responsible for a good handful of those notches. He has been visibly disturbed with the speed of play and thought of the American league, getting caught out of position on countless occasions. Most recently, his performance against DC United cost New York two goals on the night – and that is a generous estimation.
Tyler Ruthven, a 23 year old centerback product of the USL system, saw his first MLS action against DC United this weekend when he came in for Stephen Keel in the second half. Though the Red Bull’s storied rival only scored a single goal after his insertion, it was by no means an indicator of the centerback tandem’s reliability. Ryan Meara was peppered by shots from all angles as the defensive line as a hole struggled to gather themselves.
Two Red Bull Academy products, Connor Lade and Jonathan Borrajo, would likely get the call to bookend the new look centerback duo. The diminutive Lade has caught the eye of teammates and coaches alike with his impressive play during practice. Once inserted to the starting lineup, and facing Dwayne De Rosario and a deep United midfield, it was clear that the practice pitch and in-game action are two very different things. Lade looked unnerved by the relentless attack of DC. Can anyone expect much else from Borrajo?
To make matters worse, New York won’t have a physical midfielder to rely upon either. Dax McCarty is an effective two way player, but hardly a strong Dema Kovalenko (or Rafa Marquez for that matter) style midfielder. Victor Palsson – his likely partner – is still more concerned with finding his own footing than getting stuck in. From his early showings, it is doubtful that is even his game to begin with. Joel Lindpere is an attacking minded option that doesn’t have that ability to cover the back. And even though bench option Brandon Barklage can play on either side of the ball, he still fails to bring that bite to the defense or midfield.
All in all, the Red Bull’s are looking weak down the gut of their starting XI. For the next month, rookies and newcomers will be asked to compensate for the losses of some major talent. Whether New York can withstand that type of pressure – especially with a schedule that will include teams such as the 2011 Champion LA Galaxy, the 2011 runner-up Houston Dynamo and local rival Philadelphia Union – is anyone’s guess. One thing that can be agreed upon? It won’t be an easy task.