Red Bulls defender Damien Perrinelle ready to make first start of season

Damien Perrinelle - New York Red Bulls - Fanendo Adi - Portland Timbers - July 10, 2016

HANOVER, N.J.—Damien Perrinelle could be closing in on his first start of the season for the New York Red Bulls as the central defender appears fit and ready to play 90 minutes in Sunday’s nationally-televised match against the Philadelphia Union (7pm ET;  FS1, MLS LIVE in Canada).

A key part of a Red Bulls defense that spearheaded a run to the Supporters Shield last season, Perrinelle made his MLS debut last Sunday in a scoreless home draw against the Portland Timbers, playing 68 minutes as he replaced an injured Gideon Baah midway through the first half. It was Perrinelle’s first appearance in league play since suffering a knee injury last year in the playoffs. He was fully integrated into training late last month.

He looked sharp and fit against the Timbers and then got a handful of minutes midweek to help his team close out Orlando City SC in Wednesday's 2-0 victory. On Friday, the 32-year-old was a full go in training and could be an option this Sunday in a crucial Eastern Conference match for the Red Bulls.

It would be his first start since the injury last postseason.

“I think Damien’s ready to go, so we’re just trying to see a little bit where different guys are, physically,” said Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch on Friday. “But Damien is definitely an option to go, for 90 minutes.”

If Perrinelle were to get the start at Talen Energy Stadium, he would likely partner with Aurélien Collin in the center of the Red Bulls defense. The 30-year-old Collin, acquired in April in a trade with Orlando, has become an integral part of the Red Bulls backline. He has never started a match alongside Perrinelle, a fellow Frenchman.

In his return to MLS action last Sunday, Perrinelle’s 68 minutes were played alongside yet another fellow Frenchman, 30-year-old defender Ronald Zubar.

“Zubar, Damien Perrinelle and I, we (are all) French. We speak the same language and we understand each other and it is even easier to play together,” Collin said.

“We communicate in French, the other team don’t understand, so that’s great,'' Collin said. "But the philosophy now, we’ve been training together. All the center backs, we’ve been training together. We’ll be ready when the time is come.”