No matter the league or level of play, one thing holds true about soccer: injuries are just part of the game. A hard slide tackle here or a rough tumble there may hurt a player, but often times not enough to injure them; that is to say, keep them out of the lineup.
Then sometimes you just have the imperfect storm roll into town as it mercilessly picks and chooses its victims. Some call it the “injury bug,” but if avoiding a virus-like bug was as easy as a flu shot, every team in MLS would have its players lined up at the nearest pharmacy before every season.
Injuries do happen, and as of right now the Red Bulls have been hit pretty hard. Although an obvious negative is the loss of key starters, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe is not about ready to use it as an excuse. Instead, he believes his team is prepared to test its depth against Saturday’s opponent, the New England Revolution.
“It’s a challenge, definitely, to see if we can handle this situation,” Backe said following Thursday’s training session at Red Bull Arena. “It reminds me a little bit about last year at the same time after about six or seven games. But anyhow, we have better depth and it is a challenge.”
Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry also acknowledged the challenge that awaits, noting that it’s not always easy for a club to make the necessary adjustments right away. In referencing the match against D.C. United, Henry felt it would have been a more ideal situation for the incoming players if only the team had started better.
“It would have been a bit better if we could have given them an advantage to come in the game, but we couldn’t,” Henry said of defender Tyler Ruthven and forward Jhonny Arteaga’s substitutions. “You know we have to work, that back four never worked together, so we’ll see what’s going to happen on Saturday, but I still think it’s down to effort and we had an off day at the office against D.C., every single one of us, and hopefully we can change that on Saturday.”
While both Ruthven and Arteaga made their MLS debuts as subs, defender Connor Lade received his first MLS start against D.C. Similar to Ruthven and Arteaga, Lade made his MLS debut as a sub, just one week prior against San Jose at Red Bull Arena.
New England pays its first visit to Red Bull Arena Saturday (3:30pm ET/NBC Sports), also marking the first time this season the two sides go head to head. With a 2-4-0 record placing them eighth in the Eastern Conference, it’s safe to say they have been off to a slow start. But Backe and company are not taking that lightly, especially on home turf.
“As we said the whole year, [we have to be] almost unbeatable at home,” he said. “We have to show that attitude and mentality every game.”
The Revolution’s rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe has already turned a few heads after playing the full 90 in all but one match this season and registering his first career goal against the LA Galaxy on Mar. 31. Dane Richards believes Shalrie Joseph is another player that cannot be overlooked.
New York’s depth will be tested Saturday when the Revs come to town and the team is prepared for the challenge. Despite the knocks sustained to a few starters, the team is focused on the positives. No one, especially Henry, is using it as an excuse.
“In the last five games, we’ve only lost one,” he said. “Let’s put it like this to try to stay positive but we definitely have to show something else against New England, players missing or not.”