CARSON, Calif. – Is the sum of parts of any combination of players on the New York Red Bulls roster equal to that of Rafa Márquez?
That’s the question facing Hans Backe as he looks to fill the spot of his suspended central midfielder for Thursday’s second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals against the LA Galaxy (ESPN2, TSN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
On Wednesday, the RBNY head coach revealed he will decide between two options to fill in for the Mexican international in the starting lineup: Dax McCarty or Stéphane Auvray.
“They’re two a little bit different type of players, with Dax more of an attacking midfielder, Stéphane more of a holding guy,” Backe told reporters after training. “So we will see tomorrow.”
With the Red Bulls down a goal on aggregate, McCarty could be an inspired choice as the better-equipped box-to-box midfielder of the two.
Since coming over from D.C. United in June in a trade for Dwayne De Rosario, the 24-year-old has chipped in four assists and tends to push forward more, which increases the likelihood he could contribute to an equalizer. But defensively, his work rate can help break up the Galaxy’s passing game in the midfield.
McCarty knows he can’t replace the steady, physical nature of Márquez, but he believes his skill set is well-suited for the nature of Thursday’s matchup.
“I like to run around in there, buzz around more in there and keep busy,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “Rafa, I think he likes to hold more and get the ball and dictate the pace of the game from kind of a 40-by-40 box and not venture too far out of that. Distribution-wise, if I’m in the game, I’m going to try to bring the same things he does.”
Auvray, meanwhile, is a bigger surprise option for Backe, considering how little he has played since his acquisition from Sporting Kansas City in August – just 124 minutes through six games, only one of which was a start – and the coach’s general preference of Mehdi Ballouchy in the depth chart.
But Auvray’s game is more of a classic holding role, which would be well-suited should the Red Bulls need to sit back quickly if the Galaxy come out hunting for an all-important second goal.
Backe’s final decision is apparently still up in the air.
“He told us to both be ready,” said McCarty.