HARRISON, N.J. – After serving a retroactive one-game suspension that he did not even know was possible, Armando is back in the mix for a starting spot for the New York Red Bulls as they attempt to win their first game of the season.
Armando was forced to sit out last week’s 1-1 draw at the Chicago Fire after being handed a one-game ban by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, and his return boosts head coach Mike Petke’s options at center back going into the Red Bulls’ Sunday home game against Chivas USA (3 pm ET; UniMas).
The Spanish veteran is not guaranteed to start, not when Ibrahim Sekagya performed so well in his absence in the Week 3 match. But Armando does possess qualities that might make it hard to leave him off the field.
“Armando is vocal, very vocal,” Thierry Henry told reporters after Friday’s training session at Red Bull Arena. “I’m not going to go back to how come he didn’t play against Chicago, but he’s a committed player. He plays hard and is trying to be fair, I guess. It’s vital when we have a guy like that at the back. He talks, he can bring the ball up, so that’s important for us.”
Speaking out for the first time since his suspension, Amando acknowledged to MLSsoccer.com on Friday that he was surprised by the punishment he received for flailing out at Colorado Rapids’ forward DeShorn Brown while going up for a header in Week 2.
In fact, the 29-year-old defender didn't even know that receiving retroactive bans was possible.
“That’s something I had no idea about,” said Armando, who was not called for a foul on the play in the 1-1 draw vs. Colorado. “It’s a new experience for me in a new league for me. I didn’t know about the possibility of getting suspended by MLS. I think it might take some credibility from the referees in that sense, but I don’t want to dive into that. Those are executive terms, as I like to call them, and I’m here to just play soccer.”
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Whether it is Armando who partners with Jámison Olave on Sunday remains to be seen. The two physical central defenders played alongside one another in the game against the Rapids, the only time they have started together thus far this season, and fared mostly well.
Still, Petke might opt to go with Sekagya due to his impressive Week 3 showing and the fact that the Red Bulls have yet to field the same center back tandem in consecutive weeks this season.
“[Armando’s return] is definitely a boost, but the two boys did well against Chicago,” said Tim Cahill. “It’s going to be a tough fight for positions.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.