UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — It isn’t quite crisis mode for the New York Red Bulls – they won’t be taking a medi-vac plane on their flight to San Jose for the first leg of the playoffs, in any case – but the Eastern Conference table-toppers are a little beaten up.
On Tuesday morning, head coach Hans Backe ruled out star forward Thierry Henry from their conference semi-final clash against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
In addition, midfielder Joel Lindpere was ruled out of full training with the team following a groin injury he first felt on Friday during the team’s regeneration session. Lindpere worked away from the team along with Irving Garcia and Sinisa Ubiparipovic, both players rehabbing from injury.
Salou Ibrahim, Juan Pablo Angel's strike partner in Thursday night's win over the New England Revolution, was also not on the training field for New York. Backe said Ibrahim's status was questionable after picking up a knock during a 90-minute performance in the win over the Revs.
However, Backe is optimistic that Ibrahim, like Lindpere, will rejoin the team’s training session on Thursday.
“If he can train on Thursday, he’ll play Saturday,” Backe said.
The Red Bulls are now faced with a dilemma. On Saturday in San Jose, New York will be without Henry and quite possibly Ibrahim, and the need for a strike partner to slide alongside Ángel up top was made clear two weeks ago in a road loss to Philadelphia.
The Red Bulls trotted out a 4-5-1 formation that stranded the Colombian up top and the situation did not improve until the halftime substitution of Ibrahim into the game provided some much needed balance.
Backe noted that teenage forward Juan Agudelo is a possibility for Saturday, but so, too, is Mehdi Ballouchy.
“I can play Mehdi up front, definitely,” Backe said. “It is [after all] an away game.”
Agudelo has played up top for both the US U-17 and U-20 national team and, while his two league appearances have seen him both times play wide in the midfield, Backe is clearly intrigued with the possibilities of the former academy product up top.
“He’ll still be a pain in the [rear] for any center back in this league,” Backe said with a laugh.
Defender Danleigh Borman limped off the field on Tuesday morning after a rough challenge with rookie Tony Tchani. The left back did not return to training.… Ángel took a ride up to the team’s training facility following practice. His leg was elevated and he was icing his right ankle. … Carey Talley, who had a hamstring pull last month in a road win over Los Angeles, was fully training with the team.
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