Losing Gideon Baah to a non-contact injury was not the way the New York Red Bulls wanted their match against the Portland Timbers to begin.
However, seeing Damien Perrinelle return was a positive for the club.
Perrinelle had not played a single minute since suffering an ACL injury against D.C. United in the playoffs last November, but he completed his comeback by coming off the bench in the 22nd minute of the Red Bulls' scoreless draw vs. the Timbers on Sunday. Just when New York needed him the most, the Frenchman picked up where he left off, slotting alongside countryman Ronald Zubar and shutting down a dangerous Timbers counterattack.
"When we put Damien on the [gameday] roster we said there's a chance that if something happens in the 10th minute then you have to be prepared to put Damien on the field for 80 minutes," head coach Jesse Marsch said after the match. "It wasn't the 10th, it was the 20th. But I think that him getting to play some major minutes against Club America [on Wednesday] meant that he was closer to full fitness and game speed.
"Overall, the man came in and did really well. Did really well."
In total, Perrinelle played 68 minutes on the night and showed great poise and fitness on the back line. On one play, the veteran defender even tracked down the speedy Darlington Nagbe to stop a dangerous Timbers attack.
"I thought Perrinelle coming into the game was a nice addition [for the Red Bulls]," said Portland boss Caleb Porter after the match.
Added Zubar: "He was the man of the match."
Baah's status was unknown as of Sunday night. Marsch said it was a similar injury to the one suffered against Columbus Crew SC in late June, but he stayed away from issuing any timelines for recovery.
In any case, Perrinelle made the most of his opportunity in his first MLS game in eight months.
"To be fair, I was ready from the start," said Perrinelle. "I expect this kind of things. It's not the first time. I was ready. When I had an aerial duel with [Timbers forward Fanendo] Adi, I fell on my knee and said, 'Okay, my knee is fine.' But when I had to run with the ball, I didn't think about my knee.
"It was 75 minutes Wednesday [vs. Club America]. It was 70 today, I think. I am feeling tired, but it is a part of the process. The more minutes on my legs, the better it is for me -- and the quicker I will be ready."