As I posted on SBI, the Red Bulls have confirmed Lloyd Sam will indeed be out for the season with a PCL injury to his right knee. Sam’s injury is just one in a long litany of ailments that have haunted the Red Bulls this season.
Without Sam, New York will again be looking for an effective, get-in-behind midfielder who can add a pressing dynamic to their wing attack. Since Dane Richards banishment, the Red Bulls struggled to find that dimension to the attack. Now, they will be struggling to refill it.
The most likely candidate will be Jan Gunnar Solli, who’s work rate makes up for his lack of speed. Known for his passing ability and crossing, the Norwegian can add some of those aspects lost with Sam. Connor Lade is also a possibility to fill the role. His breakthrough speed and creativity has energized the team in the past and could open the possibility of Solli returning to the defense.
Secondary options? Dax McCarty is no stranger to the position but unlikely to be a leading candidate. Meanwhile, the little used and often under performing Sebastian Le Toux may have a shot at reclaiming the spot he manned during the summer months. Keep in mind however that Hans Backe has repeatedly stated his desire to use the Frenchmen up top.
Of course, Backe can scrap that entire formation and simply go with a triple defensive midfield front which he has done in the recent past – to little success.
Sam’s added dimension to the attack was a missing link for New York. Even as he struggled with his fitness against Sporting KC, his ability to press the opposition back, especially on the break, was one of the biggest wrinkles enabling New York to dominate the action.
No matter how you look at it, Sam’s loss is perhaps the biggest blow to the Red Bulls’ playoff hopes yet and if history is any indicator, finding a replacement has already proven to be a difficult task.