UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – If the New York Red Bulls are to put a halt to their winless start to the season this weekend, they might have to do so with an undermanned team.
The Red Bulls are heading into their Saturday home game against the rival Philadelphia Union (3:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, Live chat on MLSsoccer.com) dealing with uncertainty when it comes to the availability of a number of their players, including Designated Player Thierry Henry. Henry, who is dealing with an MCL sprain, has been in training since the start of the week but he is not pain-free.
“It’s one of the things I have to deal with throughout my career,” the French forward said after Thursday’s practice. “You play through the pain. Sometimes you can handle it and sometimes you can’t. As long as I can handle it, I will try to go out there or be available for the boss, but I came back a bit earlier than when I was supposed to be back. We’ll see how it goes. I’m taking it day by day.”
In the past, Henry has advocated not rushing back from injury in order to prevent any long-term damage, but he admitted that the club’s 0-2-2 start to the season is the reason why he has returned to training prematurely.
That still does not guarantee he'll suit up, much less start against the Union.
“I’m a huge risk-taker in life, I always have been with everything. With somebody’s health on my team, I’m not as much of a risk-taker,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “The best I could do is talk to my medical staff, which I trust very much, talk to the player and make the best decision that I feel is first and foremost for the player’s health and very close behind is our group.”
The Red Bulls’ other top forward, Fabián Espíndola, is also a question mark heading into Saturday’s match at Red Bull Arena. Espíndola missed a second straight day of training due to a hamstring injury picked up late in Tuesday’s session, but Petke said the club has yet to make a decision on his availability.
Tim Cahill’s status is also up in the air. Cahill did not train on Thursday after arriving in the New York area late in the day on Wednesday following a long flight from Australia, and Petke also put off making a decision on him until Friday.
“I spoke with him earlier this morning. His time clock is all messed up,” said Petke. “He flew 22 hours, something like that. Tim is somebody who is obviously at the top of his game physically, so we can wait until tomorrow to figure out what is going on with him.”
Connor Lade did not train on Thursday, either. Lade is recovering from an ankle knock.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.