RBNY Notebook: New defensive crisis for hobbled Bulls?

Markus Holgersson NYvDC

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UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Just when the New York Red Bulls are starting to get healthy, in comes word that center back Markus Holgersson is doubtful for Sunday’s match against D.C. United.

Holgersson sprained his left ankle in the final 15 minutes of the Red Bulls’ 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, and he is all but guaranteed to miss Sunday’s crucial Eastern Conference clash against United at Red Bull Arena (7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).

“It’s a ligament injury in his foot or ankle so, it’s definitely a huge question mark,” head coach Hans Backe told reporters on Saturday. “I would say, we will check it tomorrow, but 99 percent he will not be in. … I would say he’s probably not playing.”

In his first year in MLS, Holgersson has been a steady figure for a Red Bulls backline that has seen a myriad of changes due to injuries and suspensions. The Swedish defender has started all 15 league matches this season for the Red Bulls and he recently captained the side in the absence of the injured Thierry Henry.

NBC Sports Preview: NY vs. DC

Márquez not fully fit

Set to play in his first league match in more than a month, Rafa Márquez admitted he is still dealing with the niggling thigh injury he picked up while with Mexico during the international break. The Designated Player also acknowledged that his fitness has suffered as a result.

“I still need minutes to get back to full fitness,” said Márquez. “I’ve been out for three weeks, so it’s not going to be easy to get back but it will come with playing time.”

Tainio not close to returning

Things are looking grimmer and grimmer for Teemu Tainio. The Finnish midfielder did some individual work on the training field on Saturday as he continued his recovery from a knee injury, but Backe said he does not expect him to suit up for the Red Bulls again this season.

“He’s just working with the trainers and he probably has quite a long way to go,” said Backe. “As I said earlier, I don’t count him. If he comes back, it’s a huge bonus.”

Conde dealing with muscle tightness

Wilman Conde may have been rested against the Whitecaps in order to prevent overworking the oft-injured center back, but it appears things did not go as planned. The big Colombian is currently dealing with some muscle tightness that Backe says came out of the blue, but Conde should still be ready to go for Sunday’s duel with United.

“Suddenly he picked up a soft, I would say it’s not a groin, but tight muscles,” said Backe. “He’ll just get treatment and very soft field work today. I would guess that he is available for tomorrow.”

Backe prepared to deal with Richards’ absence

Dane Richards will sit out Sunday’s game due to yellow-card accumulation and, while Backe admits the Red Bulls will miss his pace, the head coach is confident that the team has options capable of filling in for the Jamaican international.

“Depends on how we would like to play, but we have wide players with Joel [Lindpere], Connor Lade, [Jan Gunnar] Solli,” said Backe. “There are guys that can play the two wide positions.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.