HANOVER, N.J. – As the New York Red Bulls returned to the training field on Wednesday morning to continue preparations for Sunday's season finale that will determine the Supporters' Shield, two players were off to the side working individually with a trainer.
While the Red Bulls are nearing full health ahead of Sunday's game against the Chicago Fire (5 pm ET, UniMas), one position that is full of question marks going into the match at Red Bull Arena is left back. Carney and Miller have combined for 22 of 33 regular-season starts at that normally troublesome spot for New York, but neither is guaranteed to dress against the Fire, given their respective calf and Achilles injuries.
“[Miller] did the first part of training, the light part, which is great to see,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters on Wednesday. “Carney, I think they want to give him one more day. He should be out doing a lot tomorrow. … Honestly, too early for me to say any expectations [about Carney]. Tomorrow he should be doing a bit more, so we’ll know.”
If Carney and Miller are unable to go, Brandon Barklage has the inside track to start on the left side of the Red Bulls backline. Normally a right back, Barklage surprisingly started at left back in last weekend’s 3-0 win in Houston, and he helped stymie a Dynamo attack that enjoyed most of the possession.
That performance impressed Petke, and the first-year head coach sounded confident in Barklage's ability to handle tricky Chicago winger Patrick Nyarko if the situation calls for it.
“We didn’t know what to expect last game, putting Brandon over there,” said Petke. “We know Brandon knows how to defend, but putting a right back on the left side after he hasn’t played in a couple of games … he performed very well defensively.
"Definitely, we have not ruled out the option of using him against a guy like Nyarko, who is speedy and a good one-on-one player. One thing Brandon is good at is his 1-v-1 defending.”