UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Bill Gaudette knows he probably annoyed the team’s training staff with a series of late-night text messages in recent days, but he did so with one goal in mind: getting back on the field.
Gaudette did just that on Tuesday, returning to training for the first time since sustaining the lower back injury that kept him out of Saturday’s 4-1 win over Toronto FC. The 31-year-old was limited in terms of what he could do, but admitted afterward that the cautious approach the club is taking is the correct one in order to avoid suffering a setback that could put him on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
“That’s what you have to do coming off an injury,” Gaudette told reporters on Tuesday. “You don’t jump back in there full force. [My back] reacted all weekend the way the training staff wanted to, put in hours of work here, training staff has been great just to monitor and keep it going in the right direction.
“The most important thing is to be healed and not having this linger on the rest of the season, but today was a positive step. We have a few more steps to get back to 100 percent, but I’m very happy with how I responded today.”
Gaudette added the workload would increase steadily in the coming days to monitor how his body responds and admitted it was difficult to have to watch from the sidelines as Luis Robles made his debut against TFC. Gaudette had started every Red Bulls game since joining the club via trade in July.
“It was tough,” he said. “I definitely want to be out there with the boys. The boys have been great, though, giving me what I needed to be to be all right. But like I said, the most important thing is to make sure I’m healthy enough to help the team.”
If Gaudette is deemed healthy enough to return to action in time for this Saturday’s home game against the Chicago Fire, he could also play for the Puerto Rican national team during next week’s international break. Gaudette, however, is not opposed to turning down the call-up if he needs extra time to heal his injured back.
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“We’re going to leave that one undecided at the moment,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve always said that New York is most important to me. This is my club, this is who I work for on a daily basis, so that decision is going to come further down the line.”
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said after Tuesday’s practice that he expects Gaudette will be ready for Saturday’s game against the Fire (3:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). But he also mentioned that simply returning to full health is not enough to guarantee the veteran a start over goalkeeper Robles, who was solid in his MLS opener.
“I talked to the goalies a couple of weeks ago and said that Luis is definitely banging on the door now,” said Backe. “He got his chance now and did well and wasn’t challenged that much, but he was solid against crosses, he started the attacking game well. It’s very even with these two guys, so it’s not automatically there that [Gaudette is] back.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.