UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The injury woes have begun early for the New York Red Bulls.
Brazilian midfielder Juninho has been all but ruled out of the club’s road game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday (10 pm ET, ESPN2 in the US, MLS Live in Canada) due to a left calf strain. The 38-year-old, who just made his MLS debut this past weekend, felt discomfort as he began training on Wednesday and was held out of Thursday’s session.
“He’s likely going to be out this weekend,” Petke said after Thursday’s snowy afternoon practice. “It’s a situation that is being evaluated right now, a little issue with his calf. We don’t know the extent of it but my thought process is another West Coast trip, if there’s any issues whatsoever I’d rather have him 100 percent and rested for the home opener.”
Juninho had suffered from calf tightness during the preseason but the current injury is not to the same calf. His absence likely means that one of Jonny Steele or Eric Alexander will earn their first start for the Red Bulls this Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium, with Steele seeming like the odds-on favorite.
“With Juninho out, Jonny has some good experience playing in Salt Lake,” said Petke. “I always liked the way he played. He’s an aggressive, biting type of player who also has a very good tactical sense, especially in the midfield system that he was with in Salt Lake and somewhat has some similarities with the way we want to press and want to work here.
“He fits right in there and he’s a good professional. He’s come in late into preseason fit, no issue there, and he provides us with the depth that we’re going to need, for instance, this weekend.”