UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – When the New York Red Bulls take on FC Dallas in Texas, on Wednesday (9 pm ET, FOX Soccer/TSN 2), they may be without one of their starting strikers for a second consecutive match. And for the second consecutive match, Dane Richards may be called upon to fill in the gap.
Captain Thierry Henry served a red-card suspension last Thursday as the Red Bulls ground out a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. This week, Luke Rodgers is “50-50” with an injured knee, leading head coach Hans Backe to say Monday morning that the Red Bulls would probably deploy Richards up top alongside Henry for their playoff match against Dallas.
Rodgers picked up the injury against the Union, and a team spokesman said that Rodgers had his knee drained on Saturday and is currently receiving treatment that includes ice and compression.
“It’s a swollen knee,” Backe said of Rodgers. “We had no idea because he played 90 minutes. Then suddenly on Friday his knee was swollen up — it’s something with his kneecap; if he got a hit or something. When I talk with the trainers, they say it’s 50-50. He will not train [Tuesday] either, just wait and see. I think we will get him with us [for the trip] and see on Wednesday how it looks.”
Replacing Rodgers – who is second on the team with nine goals – is no small task, but Richards seems to be up to the challenge. The diminutive midfielder headed in the only goal of the game in the eighth minute against Philadelphia and, though he prefers being a winger, he has also proven that he can partner effectively with Henry at striker this season.
And partnering effectively with Rodgers – whose style is similar to Richards’ – proves at least that the Jamaican speedster can adapt.
“It’s much different [than playing with Rodgers],” Richards told MLSsoccer.com of playing with Henry. “‘Titi’ is going to drop into the midfield, play with the midfield. I need to change up my runs, stay onside.”
The Red Bulls are placing an emphasis on pressuring FCD’s back four, and Richards’ speed can certainly help them do that. And for a player who has struck seven times this season already, playing closer to goal is certainly enticing.
“I just want to make good runs, be dangerous,” Richards said. “Opportunities will come my way, I just want to finish them.”
Agudelo at winger?
Richards’ anticipated move to striker leaves a gap on the right side of the midfield and deprives forward Juan Agudelo of a chance to start in Frisco. Unless, of course, Agudelo moves into Richards’ position.
“I also think with Juan now, with the type of players we have now, his first choice could be a wide position and I know he’s quite happy playing wide,” Backe said of Agudelo. “[He] gets a little more time and space on the ball instead of being a striker and the center back sits on [him]."