Connor Lade expected to step in for injured Heath Pearce for New York Red Bulls vs. Houston

HARRISON, N.J. – The main talking point earlier in the week for the New York Red Bulls was head coach Mike Petke looking at all his options at right back, but now the focus has shifted to the other fullback position.

Two days before the Red Bulls host the Houston Dynamo on Sunday (2 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Petke informed a group of reporters that Heath Pearce would likely be sidelined for the match with an unspecified injury. Pearce, who looked set for another start after Roy Miller’s departure for international duty earlier in the week, is set to meet with doctors to determine the severity of the knock.

“He’s still dealing with an injury situation that we’re in the middle of diagnosing and seeing how he feels,” Petke after the team's practice on Friday at Red Bull Arena. “He wasn’t available today and I don’t see him available this weekend.”

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Petke also was not sure when Pearce picked up the injury or how long the versatile veteran has been dealing with it, but what Petke was 90 percent sure of is who will line up at left back for New York on Sunday. All signs point to second-year defender Connor Lade getting his first start of the season, though Petke did not mention him by name specifically when talking about who will slot in on the left side of the defense.

“We still have the core in the center, we have the right side, [where] it’s been a competition with Brandon [Barklage] and Kosuke [Kimura], and the left side we’re confident that it’s a shot for someone that I’m thinking will come up big,” Petke said.

“As long as we’re strong down the middle with communication the outside guys, I’m confident that … we’ll be fine down the spine and help out as much as possible on the outsides.”

Lade, who has been seldom used this season with just 22 minutes of playing time in two appearances, was receiving plenty of instruction during the tailend of Friday’s training session. He has not played in a league game since coming off the bench in a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact on March 23.

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