UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – When the New York Red Bulls returned to the practice field on Friday morning after an eight-day break, they were finally able to welcome back Rafa Márquez.
Márquez (above) took part in the club’s customary 9-v-2 keep-away drills before going off to the side to do individual work while the rest of the team played in a short scrimmage.
The Red Bulls have targeted his full return from a nagging calf injury for Sept. 15, when they host the Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena. But his availability for that Eastern Conference tilt will depend on how he responds to training in the coming days.
“He will join in normally for the first 30 minutes [of training] now the first three days, see how it works,” head coach Hans Backe told reporters. “Hopefully, he could join in then on Tuesday, hopefully, if everything works well for a full session.”
The Mexican international has not appeared in a match since playing four minutes off the bench vs. Houston on Aug. 10, and his last start came on July 15 in Seattle.
Backe talks Le Toux’s struggles
Sébastien Le Toux started his Red Bulls tenure with a goal and an as assist in his first two games, but has struggled to make an impact ever since. He has neither scored nor assisted in his last seven games, and Backe said Friday Le Toux’s struggles could be a result of his positioning on the field.
“It’s more that we just need probably try to play him as a striker,” Backe said. “He always does a phenomenal job even in a wide position and he could be a good player for the breaks even when he plays wide. But it’s more that he has to feel comfortable playing as a striker, not one game wide right, one game striker. I think that’s what he needs.”
That being said, Backe insisted he’s not likely to change the team’s formation in order to play strikers Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper with Le Toux up top at the same time.
Sam not fit enough to start
Lloyd Sam may think he will be fit enough to start in the Red Bulls’ upcoming game with the Crew, but Backe disagrees. Backe believes Sam is making progress in his battle to get back in game shape, but he only envisions him coming off the bench against Columbus next Saturday.
“I don’t think he will be able to start yet,” Backe said. “I think definitely he still can be a guy, he played 15 minutes now [and] he’s been training the whole week with our fitness coach, he had no break, so I think 20, 25 minutes probably.”
Tainio playing in testimonial match
While four players (Tim Cahill, Bill Gaudette, Roy Miller, Joel Lindpere) are still away from the team due to international obligations, one other notable absence on Friday was Teemu Tainio. The midfielder is currently in Finland, where he will play in a testimonial match for one of his former international teammates.
“He’s playing a testimonial for Sami Hyypia, the former Liverpool center back who is a coach now,” said Backe. “They play the game I think tomorrow, so it’s good for him to get a game, anyhow.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.