Red Bulls’ boss Petke ponders early World Cup release for Cahill, Miller

New York Red Bull head coach Mike Petke is in a tricky situation.

While his team continues to compete at the onset of yet another MLS season, the specter of the World Cup hangs over every competition like a shroud. New York have two key players heading towards Brazil; Tim Cahill of Australia and Roy Miller of Costa Rica. Both are expected to leave by the required FIFA surrender date later this month.

Recent rulings by Major League Soccer, however, have pushed some Federations, including those of Australia and Costa Rica, to ask for their players a little bit earlier, and that can effect the Red Bulls season.

“Ihe initial indications that we’re getting, and they’re not concrete in stone, is that after the Chicago game, both federations would like to have them,” Petke said in his weekly conference call. “By FIFA regulations, we really don’t have to release them I believe until the 18th or the 17th, which would allow them to play … the Toronto game (5/17) as well.

“We would love to have both of them through the Toronto game but one thing that doesn’t do well for us, and I understand why they did it: MLS I believe said they will release all U.S. National Team players the 14th. A lot of other federations are looking at that and saying ‘well, we want our players as well.’

“We’re going to figure out what’s best for us and the team, but also the players.”

‘What’s best for the players’ is a complicated matter. Recently, we have seen Petke and the Red Bull technical staff take a cautious approach to preserving Cahill for the World Cup, refusing to speed up his return to the starting XI in fear of further aggravating his injuries. His health situation may allow Petke to bend on that date and send him to the national side.

But what of Miller? Petke and the Costa Rican Federation already have a testy relationship, with Ticos coach Jorge Luis Pinto infamously attacking the Red Bull boss’ tactical prowess on defense just last season. The fullback has also been an invaluable and irreplaceable part of the team all season long.

It is a decision sure to weigh on the sophomore coach — particularly if his choice means Miller will suffer the consequences of limited playing time, or even exclusion from the lineup.

“It’s a tricky situation, especially with Costa Rica,” Petke concedes. “They are usually very adamant about ‘We want Roy now and there’s no questions asked.’

“If it’s a friendly game, two years out from the World Cup, you’ve got a lot of wiggle room and you can talk. If we refuse Roy to go before a game against Toronto and if that jeopardizes in any way him playing in a World Cup or minutes in a World Cup or something like that, I would be a very sad, and a very angry person.”

While New York ponder their next move, they will also prepare their bench options for extended duty. Petke points out Connor Lade as a possible replacement for Cahill in the midfield, while Miller’s absence could be covered by any number of options, such as Kosuke Kimura, Chris Duvall, Ibrahim Sekagya, Armando Lozano and Bobby Convey just to name a few.

“We have definitely options, but Roy has played very well this year,” Petke says. “Whoever we put there, I don’t want to say big shoes to fill — that is unfair to the guys we put there — but they will have to come up to speed very quickly with what we have done on the outside back position, and what Roy has done specifically to make it so successful.”

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