HARRISON, N.J. – Three weeks ago, Red Bulls defender Rafa Márquez described Finnish international teammate Teemu Tainio as the “glue of the team” – a player who holds everything together for New York.
On Saturday night against the LA Galaxy, the Red Bulls might become unglued (11 pm ET; ESPN2/ESPN Deportes).
Tainio, who has started all seven matches for New York this year in the holding midfielder role, was subbed out of last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City with what head coach Hans Backe described as a “tight groin.”
“Teemu is still a question mark [for Saturday],” Backe said. “He’s still a little bit sore. We have to check him [on Friday].”
After missing training on Monday and Tuesday because of the injury, Tainio did some work by himself on the team’s day off on Wednesday. He returned to practice Thursday but participated in agility and strength drills only, away from the starting XI.
The groin injury wasn’t a result of a pre-existing injury, and this week Tainio has spent much of the week receiving massages and taking ice baths. The midfielder said he felt better on Thursday than on Wednesday but that he was unsure if he'd be ready to face the Galaxy this weekend.
“It is hard to say,” Tainio said. “I’m hopeful.”
Mehdi the answer?
If Tainio is unable to be a part of the starting XI, Mehdi Ballouchy could be an option. But for a player who wears the No. 10 jersey, the move to a more defensive position could prove challenging.
“I think he can do it,” Backe said. “It is an option. Mehdi, absolutely with his passing game, technically, he can do it.”
There is logic behind slotting Ballouchy into the holding midfield role, despite the fact that the player isn’t a true ball-winner. Backe noted that all four of the Galaxy's midfielders are attacking players, so by playing Ballouchy, Backe might be trying to match fire for fire in the midfield.
Henry: Not just about Becks
Saturday's match pits the league’s two biggest stars in Thierry Henry and David Beckham. Henry, however, dismissed the idea that he was drawn to MLS because of Beckham’s big move to the Galaxy in 2007.
The former French international said he was aware of MLS long before Beckham who played in the league, citing former teammate Youri Djorkaeff — who played for the Red Bulls from 2005-06 — as someone to whom he reached out to get the scoop on the league.
“I spoke to Youri, Becks, Claudio Reyna – the people who played here,” Henry said. “You guys just focused on [Beckham].”
Rodgers, Márquez good to go
Along with Tainio, forward Luke Rodgers was also subbed out at halftime on Saturday after feeling pain behind his knee. Backe held Rodgers out of training earlier this week as a precaution and did the same for Márquez, who Backe said had felt some knee pain earlier this week.
However, both players participated fully in training on Thursday morning, and Backe reported there were no problems with either.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer