CHESTER, Pa. – Shortly after the New York Red Bulls took to the field for pregame warm-ups on Wednesday, Mike Petke noticed his team looked tired.
Having played three days prior in a 4-1 home win vs. the Columbus Crew, the Red Bulls arrived at PPL Park with less energy than usual. It showed almost immediately, as New York came out flat and fell behind early, going on to suffer a frustrating 3-1 loss that continued their inconsistent season.
The Red Bulls head coach said after the match that he would use the next two days to see how his players recovered and then decide if he would make any changes to the starting lineup that will face the San Jose Earthquakes in the Red Bulls’ third game in eight days on Saturday. All indications, however, point to changes being in the cards.
“An unmentioned person, I remember last game we were 25 minutes in, and he was like, ‘Hey, Luis. I feel like I’ve played 90 minutes,’” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “Today, 15 minutes in and he was like, ‘Hey, Luis. I feel like I’ve played 90 minutes.’”
It might be a fun exercise to try and guess the identity of the tired field player, but the point remains that Petke will likely have to insert some fresh legs at Red Bull Arena on Saturday in order to avoid the same type of tepid start that doomed New York against the Philadelphia Union.
“We could tell in the warm-up we were a bit tired,” Petke said. “As you saw in the first half, we had three to four guys coming to our center backs real close to collect the ball. It’s a sign of a little fatigue.”
Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, Peguy Luyindula and Bobby Convey are the primary candidates to be shuffled into the lineup against the Earthquakes this weekend as the Red Bulls look to solidify their playoff standing by moving up from fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Either Armando or Sekagya could replace young center back Matt Miazga – whose impressive start to the season has hit a snag – Luyindula could come on for Tim Cahill or the red-hot Bradley Wright-Phillips if needed, and Convey could fill in at left midfield to give either Eric Alexander or Lloyd Sam a rest.
Ironically, one of the players who has looked to have energy to spare this week is 35-year-old striker Thierry Henry. He is all but guaranteed to start against the Earthquakes, but just who will complement him is the big question mark that Petke will have to find an answer for in the coming days.
“It’s tough playing this many games in a short turnaround, and it’s only going to get tougher against San Jose,” said Robles. “We’re going to have to recover pretty good and regroup and get ready to defend our turf.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.