Heath Pearce takes health into his own hands as New York Red Bulls face future without versatile defender

HANOVER, N.J. – The choice was Heath Pearce’s to make, and ultimately he decided that having season-ending surgery was the most prudent decision.

A day after it was revealed that Pearce would likely miss the rest of the campaign due to a hip operation, New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke informed MLSsoccer.com Saturday that it was the veteran defender and not the club who made the decision for him to go under the knife. Pearce had been bothered by the hip knock for some time, but played through it before choosing to have a procedure ahead of the Red Bulls' home match vs. Houston on Sunday (2 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

“Heath Pearce decided to have the surgery and we support his decision,” Petke told MLSsoccer.com after Saturday’s training session. “There’s nothing gone into it from us or anything. He took it upon himself and decided to have surgery, so we’re not going to stand in his way. It’s his body, he knows how he feels.”

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With Pearce sidelined, the Red Bulls have been left dangerously thin at center back. The only options behind starters Jamison Olave and Markus Holgersson are Digão, who is currently nursing an injury, and Matt Miazga, an 18-year-old Homegrown player who just joined the club this week after finishing high school.

Petke, however, is confident that New York have enough to get by on for now, especially if they sign trialist Ibrahim Sekagya. A center back, Sekagya joined the club for training this week after finishing his season in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg.

“We have Matt Miazga as a backup, he’s young,” said Petke. “We have another guy from Salzburg, Ibrahim, who’s in and who’s a good player that’s definitely in the discussion for the future, the future being the coming weeks. We’re fine.”

Pearce’s injury also means Petke will need to turn to a reserve to fill in at left back on Sunday against the Houston Dynamo, as starter Roy Miller is on international duty with Costa Rica.

READ: Lade expected to step in for injured Pearce for against Houston

That someone seems to be the versatile Connor Lade, who has been champing at the bit to get onto the field after playing a total of 22 minutes in league games this season.

“I’ve been starving,” Lade told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m really excited. Obviously, this is what I’ve been waiting for. It’s tough. You don’t want to see your teammates go down and out for the season … but it’s a great opportunity for me to show [the coaching staff] what I’ve got again and just perform well for my team.”

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