Red Bulls' Sutton held back by concussion

Fighting to keep No. 1 jersey, goalkeeper rues timing of injury

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Getting a massage is generally considered one of life's luxuries. For Greg Sutton, however, it's a necessity.

The Red Bulls goalkeeper is receiving massage therapy after suffering a concussion in training last week. The injury occurred after Sutton came out to grab a cross, and though defender Stephen Keel saw Sutton charging out and tried to get out of the way, he ducked and the goalkeeper flipped over him.

Sutton landed on the back of his neck and on his left shoulder, and the impact caused the fourth concussion of his career. When he tried to get up and walk off the field, he said his knees buckled.

“I feel OK,” said Sutton, who also suffered one in 2007 while training with the Canadian national team. “It’s not the worst concussion I’ve had. It’s not as bad as that one a few years ago.”

All his previous concussions, he said, have also come in training.

Unable to train with the team for the remainder of last week, Sutton did not play last weekend in New York's 0-0 tie at Columbus. He did not practice on Monday with the Red Bulls either, instead continuing treatment and receiving massages to help alleviate “a lot of tension in my head, my back.”

The goalkeeper will receive an impact concussion test on Tuesday to see how he has recovered. He isn’t able to train or even work out with the team, but he said that life has been overall normal since the concussion happened — despite admitting to some “memory confusion” after the injury.

“I won’t make a decision on Greg playing until I see that test,” head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ll see that first, then decide.”

The injury comes at a bad time for Sutton, who started in the season opener and played well in the 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders at Red Bull Arena. A backup for much of last year, Sutton seems to have established himself as the team’s top-choice goalkeeper.

Sutton injury could open the door for fellow goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul to reclaim the starting spot. Last Saturday in Columbus, third-string goalkeeper Alex Horwath kept a clean sheet.

“It’s all about timing in sports, isn’t it?” Sutton said. “Obviously you always want to play if you can, but you have to look at it from another perspective, too. If I rush back, I can hurt myself worse and also hurt the team with how I play.”

But Sutton acknowledges that if he can play on Saturday, he will if chosen.

His starting role with the Red Bulls could open the door for a return to the Canadian national team as well. Sutton is a veteran of the squad and speaks passionately about wanting to see the sport grow in his home country. At the same time, he has to weigh his desire to play for the national team and play in a fourth CONCACAF Gold Cup along with his desire to stay with the Red Bulls and start.

“For me, club soccer is what I want to concentrate on right now,” Sutton said. “It’s what pays the bills. If Canada calls, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer