HARRISON, N.J. – The Red Bulls may be heading into the 2011 season among the favorites for the MLS Cup, but it isn’t overconfidence that keeps manager Hans Backe up at night.
The concern is the fact that his roster may be too talented to the point that a good portion of his starting lineup could get called away on international duty throughout the MLS season.
During Tuesday’s media day at Red Bull Arena, Backe listed the potential starters he thinks might go missing with their respective national teams for extended periods due to the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa América. That long list includes Rafa Márquez (Mexico), Roy Miller (Costa Rica), Dane Richards (Jamaica), Bouna Coundoul (Senegal) and Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream (USA).
“It’s a tricky season for us in that we might be without several key players for much of the season,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com. “That is a lot of players to lose and still be expected to play games in a season.”
The lineup-juggling begins soon for Backe. At the end of March, the Red Bulls travel to Columbus and Backe envisions taking a big hit for that game.
“For Columbus, we could be without six players for that match,” Backe said. “That’s tough to play missing that many pieces.”
The Red Bulls have built depth this year – arguably their deepest team in franchise history – but Backe still envisions struggles as the team copes with the potential loss of much of its core throughout the summer.
Last month, Backe talked to the media about the goal he has for his team of pursuing the Supporters' Shield. Now with more than half of his projected starting lineup missing time on international duty, Backe is re-evaluating his that claim.
“Perhaps we have to change a little bit our goals and expectations,” Backe said. “No one can live without five or six starters who might be lost for as much as 12 competitive matches. That’s a third of the season. We’re just forced to wait and see how things play out for us.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
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