UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – If the New York Red Bulls are to earn three points in their crucial match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday (3:30 pm ET, NBC), they will likely have to do so without winger Lloyd Sam.
Sam sat out of the Red Bulls training session on a chilly and rainy Tuesday morning, as he nursed the mild hamstring strain he picked up in the second half of New York’s 4-1 triumph over Toronto FC last weekend.
Red Bull head coach Hans Backe said after the session that Sam’s availability for Saturday’s home game is in doubt, though there is a small chance he could dress.
“I think it can be too early for Saturday, but you never know, we’ll see Thursday or Friday,” Backe told reporters.
Sam excelled in his first MLS start, giving the Red Bulls attack an added dimension against Toronto with his speed and crossing, and Backe all but confirmed that Sam will be a starter when he’s back to full health.
“You can see the difference with the guy – as soon as he has some empty space in front of him, he takes the ball forward,” said Backe. “We were so much more direct because of him. Instead of going back, bang! Forward, forward, forward all the time.
“When you see this, he makes a difference and he’s so precise in his passing game. His crosses are great, he never loses the ball, almost. Solid player.”
With Sam proving himself a capable right midfielder in MLS, do not expect to see Sébastien Le Toux out wide anymore for the Red Bulls, not even against Chicago. Le Toux played some games earlier this season as a right midfielder, but that experiment seems to be over and done with.
“I will not play him wide,” said Backe. “It’s not fair against him. He has to be the option as a striker coming on.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.