BRADENTON, Fla. — Juninho Pernambucano missed both of the New York Red Bulls’ practices on Wednesday, and his absence had nothing to do with it being his birthday.
The Brazilian midfielder, who turned 38 on Wednesday, was held out of both the morning and afternoon sessions, instead doing individual work with a trainer back at the team hotel. The Red Bulls, however, are insisting that Juninho is not injured and that holding him out of training is simply precautionary.
“There’s no need to for him to get into this where it could be a possible injury,” head coach Mike Petke told MLSsoccer.com. “Maybe he has a little tightness in his calf, but he’s exactly where we want him to be.”
Where the Red Bulls want him to be is at top of his fitness. According to Petke, Juninho has entered camp in shape and allegedly outdid a number of his peers during one of the initial conditioning drills the team went through.
WATCH: Sit-down with Petke
“The first day we got here, we ran a significant amount, and the most joyous moment of that day was looking over after a seven-minute intense run as a group and he has his arm up on the corner flag, leaning on it looking around smiling,” Petke said. “You have guys coming out of college and young players over on their knees gasping for air.
“Right then and there it’s like, ‘All right, well we don’t have worry about fitness with him.’“
Another player who was limited on Wednesday was trialist Marius Obekop. The midfielder mostly ran around a field with a trainer during both sessions. Centerback Digao, meanwhile, is not currently in the Sunshine State with the Red Bulls as he prepares for the impending birth of his child.
Missing rookies to be invited to upcoming camps
If you were wondering where some of the Red Bulls rookie class is, the answer is at home.
Because of the number of bodies New York have for their current camp, not all of the rookies selected by the club in the recent drafts could be brought to Florida. Midfielders Ben Fisk, Marc Cintron (who scored against Spain while representing Puerto Rico in a friendly in 2012), Andrew Ribeiro and forward Stephane Diop are not with New York at the moment, but they will be given an opportunity in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to have a couple of more players come in next week here and we’re going to have a look at them and start fresh,” Petke said. “The best thing that can happen is that they’re in good shape coming in and they’re ready to run right through so they can make our decision a lot harder.”
Midfielders Ian Christianson, Ryan Clark and Michael Bustamante, the players New York chose with their first three picks this year, are currently the only rookies training with the club.