For New York Red Bulls midfielder Seth Stammler, it’s about time.
Fresh off a 45-minute appearance in a friendly match against Army on Monday, the six-year veteran is getting closer to his season debut and is optimistic that he is ready to play on Saturday against Seattle.
Stammler, who injured his hamstring several weeks ago during training, had to sit out Saturday’s MLS opener against Chicago. Worse, the longest-tenured member of the team missed out on the two gala events at the brand new Red Bull Arena—the 3-1 exhibition win over Brazilian side Santos and the 1-0 season-opening victory over Chicago.
“This is something I’ve heard about for six years,” Stammler told MLSsoccer.com after training on Tuesday. “It is frustrating to not be a part of it right now.”
Stammler has proven his mettle with the club since being drafted by New York in 2004. He’s survived six different head coaches, and his ability to play multiple positions has proven its worth to each one. During this year’s preseason, he saw time along the back line and even on the left wing in addition to his normal role as a defensive midfielder.
“That’s the good thing about being the utility man,” Stammler said. “You don’t get pigeonholed.”
But new head coach Hans Backe may have just holed that pigeon.
“I think he’s a central midfielder,” Backe declared when asked by MLSsoccer.com.
Rain on Tuesday forced the Red Bulls inside for conditioning work, but Stammler said he is close to match readiness and feels like he can go full speed this week in practice. If hadn’t been for the rain, he is confident he would have been out there on the field preparing for Saturday’s match.
The Red Bulls lost last March to the Sounders in Seattle by a 3-0 score in the home side’s first-ever match. Three months later, New York held the playoff-bound Sounders to a 1-1 draw at Giants Stadium, a result that Stammler said is more accurate of how these two teams are matched up. But Seattle’s home-field advantage is always going to be a factor. While the midfielder missed last year’s road game against Seattle as he was recovering from a knee injury, he knows that the team will face a hostile and seething crowd and that this Seattle team is one to not overlook.
“They did well last year,” Stammler said of Seattle. “Obviously, they’re going to get a lot of respect from us.”