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Armando or Roy Miller? Suspensions force backline shuffles for New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago

HANOVER, N.J. – Armando or Roy Miller?

That's the question facing New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke ahead of Sunday's game at the Chicago Fire (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes).

Petke's preferred center backs, Jamison Olave and Matt Miazga, are both suspended for the game at Toyota Park, leaving Petke to choose either Armando or Miller to line up next to Ibrahim Sekagya at the heart of New York’s backline.

Signs are pointing to Miller getting the nod. The Costa Rican veteran has played there for his country, and he made a rare appearance at that spot for the Red Bulls in last weekend’s 2-1 win over the New England Revolution.

And while Armando seems like the more natural fit given that center back is his customary position, he has seen only one minute of action in the last seven games. The Spaniard has plunged down the depth chart due to his multiple suspensions from the league and the emergence of 19-year-old academy product Miazga.

Reluctant to reveal who would get the nod at Chicago, Petke said that he wanted whoever started to be comfortable on the ball, show a willingness to build out of the back and defend well. Miller checked off all those categories in the second half against New England, which had Petke gushing about his play last week.

“Extremely impressed, extremely impressed,” the coach said of Miller's performance. “I already knew that he could do it and I already knew that he was comfortable there from his national team, but Roy is very comfortable with the ball, he’s very experienced, he doesn’t get rattled. It was a perfect scenario to put him in.”

Miller has spent some time in training at center back this week, and is ready to play there if needed.

“Defensively, you have similar responsibilities,” Miller told MLSsoccer.com. “But at center back you have to provide the team with some security on the ball because the head coach likes for the team build out of the back and I have confidence in that. It’s a position that I think requires a little more concentration and communication, but in reality the two spots are similar."

Aside from last week’s cameo, the 29-year-old Miller also played in that position at this summer’s World Cup. He was used as the left center back in a five-man back line in Costa Rica’s scoreless draw with England in June, but then sustained an injury that kept him out of action for club and country until recently.

Miller has started at left back in each of the two MLS games he has played in since returning from Brazil, but now might be poised to fill in at center back.

“[Costa Rica] play in a different system obviously, but it’s not like it’s a weird territory for him,” said Thierry Henry. “He knows how to play the game as a center back and he played well against New England. If he has to play there, we trust him and he has the experience of a World Cup now and big games for Costa Rica, so hopefully he can bring that for us. But I have no doubt because apart from maybe Bradley [Wright-Phillips] before the World Cup Roy was one of our best players.”

If Miller is deployed centrally, it is likely that young winger Ambroise Oyongo will drop into the left back spot with Eric Alexander replacing him at left midfield.