UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – New York head coach Hans Backe has been down this road before.
Regular starters Bouna Coundoul, Roy Miller, Rafa Márquez and Dane Richards were all missing from Tuesday's practice, which was the first session since the team returned from Utah on Sunday. All four are on international duty and missed Saturday’s 1-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake.
Several of New York's starting XI will also play midweek for their national teams, so Backe remained cautious about the return of his international players ahead of this Saturday's match against Colorado.
[inline_node:310599]“The toughest one was Roy Miller, who had two-90 minute games already,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re going to wait and see and watch everybody to make sure they are healthy and fit ahead of Colorado this weekend.”
The Red Bulls expect Márquez to play for Mexico against Ecuador on Tuesday night, and Backe does not anticipate the central midfielder returning until Thursday at the earliest.
Márquez's calming presence in the midfield was sorely missed in Saturday’s loss. Real Salt Lake’s midfield dominated possession and held the ball for much of the match, in particular during the lopsided first half.
“If [Márquez] feels okay, then he probably should play,” Backe said. “I don’t think right now that he would not play, though that is always a possibility.”
Perhaps fresh in Backe’s mind was the team’s 1-0 loss to Los Angeles several weeks ago. The Wednesday before the loss, Márquez played the full 90 minutes as he captained Mexico in a 1-1 tie with Spain in Mexico City. Márquez then flew back the next day and started for the Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon against the Galaxy.
What followed was the worst performance of Márquez's short MLS career. He looked tired and worn down.
“He should be okay for Saturday,” Backe said. “It’s not really a concern when you’re dealing with a player like Rafa, but I’m rather confident we will have him ready for Saturday.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.