New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke knows that Sunday’s game against the Seattle Sounders is a big one, as it pits the league’s top two teams against one another for what can easily be dubbed a Supporters Shield Showdown on the turf at CenturyLink Field.
However, weight of the match aside, he also knows that the health of his players is the bigger concern going forward, especially with regards to the remaining regular season matches and potential postseason matchups. It’s for this very reason that he feels that the Red Bulls could be without two key players ahead of Sunday’s tilt as a result of the turf in Seattle – forward Thierry Henry and defender Jamison Olave.
"Going by history, it would appear that he wouldn't be available,” Petke said of Henry’s availability. “I know that it's very easy for supporters, even media to say, 'Oh it's a huge game and ridiculous,' or whatever, but you have to go with the doctors.”
“This is not something that he just doesn't like turf,” Petke added. “He has a chronic issue with his Achilles, and if it's a situation where I'm being told by the doctors that it could be damaged, then it's a situation - are you going to take that risk for one game, no matter what the significance is when there's still three more left to play in the regular season and hopefully the playoffs."
Olave could also be rested for Sunday’s match due to knee concerns and potential risks from playing on an artificial turf surface. Petke acknowledged that, again, he could put a defender like Olave into the back line and watch him go the full 90 minutes, or he could risk watching his player take a wrong turn after one minute of play and potentially lose him for the remainder of the season. It goes without saying that this is obviously not the sort of risk Petke is willing to take with a playoff run potentially to come.
“If the doctors weren’t telling me certain things, and I didn’t feel like it’s a health thing, then of course I would step in and have serious conversations with these players saying, ‘Listen, you may not like it, but we need you this weekend.’ But that’s not the reality. The reality is that it really is a health risk.”
Another hit to the front line comes in the form of forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who suffered a right hamstring strain in last weekend’s 1-0 win over FC Dallas. Petke indicated that he would be out for Sunday’s match.
Erring on the side of caution, the Red Bulls will be without these three starters when they take on the Sounders. At 51 points in the Eastern Conference, and the possibility of locking up a spot in the postseason this weekend, Petke and Company remain confident as they ride a four-game win streak into Seattle.
Watch all the action live Sunday on ESPN, starting at 9:00 PM.
The Red Bulls return home to Red Bull Arena on Saturday, Oct. 5, for a 7:00 PM match against the New England Revolution. Get tickets now at Red Bulls Ticket Central, or call 877.RB.SOCCER to secure your seats today.