Juninho Pernambucano Red Bulls
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New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke on Juninho: "I project him playing”

Juninho may be back to full health and raring to go, but New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke is unsure if he will start the Brazilian midfielder against the Montreal Impact this Saturday.

The Brazilian veteran just recently recovered from a left calf strain that he suffered shortly after playing on the artificial turf at JELD-WEN Field in the Red Bulls’ season opener, and that has left Petke questioning whether giving him the nod on the artificial surface at Olympic Stadium is the best choice for Juninho and the club.

“It’s always a concern to figure out what’s best for the player, what’s best for the team,” said Petke after Wednesday’s practice on turf fields. “He feels good, he wants to play, I project him playing. I haven’t made a decision on when exactly that’s going to be, whether it’s going to be a full game, to start the game, to come off the bench.”

If Juninho does not start, the Red Bulls would begin the game against the undefeated Impact stripped of three of their biggest offensive weapons. Designated Players Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill will also be missing in Montreal due to injury and international duty, respectively.

READ: Thierry Henry ruled out against Montreal Impact

Still, Petke is confident that when he digs into his bench on Saturday someone will step up and make a case for himself.

"One person's omission is another person's opportunity,” said Petke. “That’s the way these guys know I click. They know I want them to earn things and it’s going to be a very good opportunity for at least one person to earn something on Saturday in the absence of players.

“We have young guys who are hungry and a guy like [Péguy Luyindula] who has played at a high level – if he is available – who is anxious to get on the field and play,” added Petke. “I’m looking forward to whoever steps in to fill in their shoes, to see what kind of performance they can turn in.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.