The dreaded “injury bug” has certainly made its mark on the Red Bulls this season, but it looks as if there may be some reprieve on the horizon sooner rather than later.
Last week’s loss to Houston didn’t get the team a result, but it did provide an opportunity for a few injured players to work their way back into the fold.
Midfielder Teemu Tainio, who made his return to MLS action in last Friday’s loss to the Dynamo after a knee injury kept him out since Mar. 31, played 45 minutes in the loss but is working hard to return to peak form.
“My knee feels absolutely perfect. No problem at all,” he said. “I have two forty-fives under my belt. So from now on I think I can start a couple 90s, full games, but we’ll see obviously.”
Another positive, on the back line, is the return of Heath Pearce. The defender suffered a hamstring injury during the June 30 match against Toronto and remained out of the lineup up until his 90-minute performance against the Dynamo. While he was quick to admit it wasn’t his or the team’s best performance, the game scenario did provide an opportunity to get back into the mix of things.
“I feel much better this week. Kind of got my legs back under me,” he said after Thursday’s training session at Montclair State University. “Obviously you never want to use a game to get your legs back under you, but sometimes that’s how it happens. It was a tough day, but we’re looking to bounce back [Friday] with a win.”
While addressing the media Thursday afternoon, head coach Hans Backe said a number of injured players were on their way back to the training pitch as well.
“I would say everyone has been training almost the whole week,” Backe said. “The guys that have been out, so most of the guys are available for [Friday].”
Backe also suggested defender Wilman Conde and midfielder Rafa Marquez will be available for selection. Conde left Friday’s match with some groin soreness, while Marquez has been working his way through a nagging calf injury that his kept him intermittently on and off the pitch since April.
Defender Brandon Barklage is on the mend as well, but not expected to play against Houston. Backe said Barklage will likely be back in training Monday, but the St. Louis native has been taking part in one-on-one sessions with trainers off to the side of the pitch all week.
All season long commentators and fans have wondered what this team would be capable of if only they remained healthy from top to bottom. With guys working their way back into game action, and others picking up the pace in training, it looks like that opportunity may present itself soon enough.
The Red Bulls take on the Dynamo tonight at Red Bull Arena for an 8 PM ET kick off. Watch all the action live on NBC Sports.