Striker Luke Rodgers appears to be ready to return to the Red Bulls’ starting lineup for their matchup with the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday (3 pm ET, ESPN2/Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
At least he’d better be ready.
“I would just force [Rodgers] to play,” RBNY head coach Hans Backe joked to reporters on a conference call on Friday. “I don’t bother how much pain he has; he has to play this game.”
Joking aside, the striker is recovering well from a knee injury sustained last Thursday against the Philadelphia Union. While he missed the Red Bulls’ wild card matchup against FC Dallas on Wednesday, Rodgers took part in individual training on Friday while the starters from that match got the day off.
“I must say, he looked quite good; the way he runs and the way he finished,” Backe said of the English striker. “[He] did some shooting. He looked quite OK today so, I’d be very surprised if he’s not almost 100 percent fit for the Sunday game. You never know; there is some kind of pain, but it’s not the worst pain.”
The Red Bulls will be without the help of right back Jan Gunnar Solli on Sunday as the Norwegian serves a suspension for his red card against FCD, but New York should have the services of midfielder Dax McCarty.
McCarty played on Wednesday at right midfield, but was subbed off in the 59th minute with an ankle injury. But if the hard-nosed midfielder doesn’t start on Sunday, it won’t be for lack of fitness.
“I’m quite sure Dax will be in a full session [at Saturday practice],” Backe said.