UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Brandon Barklage is set to return to the New York Red Bulls’ starting lineup for the first time in over two months, and he's hoping to make it a permanent one.
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe told reporters following Tuesday’s practice that Barklage is the de facto starter at right back with rookie Connor Lade suspended for Saturday’s home game against Toronto FC, and Barklage is eager to seize the opportunity.
Barklage claimed the starting right back spot earlier in the year, but a hamstring injury suffered in a win over the Philadelphia Union on July 21 saw him lose the incumbent role to Lade.
“I felt like I was on a decent run in the 15, 16 games I played," Barklage said. "I think my goal from now on is to solidify a spot somewhere and show people more of what I can offer to the team.”
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What Barklage showed he is capable of offering in the first half of the season was solid defending, a good aerial ability and the occasional surge forward and accurate cross. The 25-year-old is looking to show more of that after having recovered from his knock, and he’s hoping that translates into him becoming an every-game starter again.
“That’s always my goal, is to be in the starting eleven,” he said. “I feel like I have more to show the coaches, the league and the fans, and hopefully that gets started this weekend.”
Barklage played in two reserve games in recent weeks and also came off the bench following Lade’s ejection in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the England Revolution, a game New York was on the brink of winning until they surrendered a last-gasp header.
“It started out well because when I came on we scored in stoppage time and then it was just an unfortunate cross,” Barklage said. “I think a little bit more communication would’ve helped on that, but it was an unfortunate loss. But we’ll rebound this weekend.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.