In need of some defensive bite in their midfield, the New York Red Bulls are likely to welcome back Dax McCarty in some capacity this weekend.
McCarty looks set to be included in the Red Bulls’ 18-man roster for Saturday’s home game against the Columbus Crew (7 pm ET, MLS Live) after missing New York’s last three games with a knee injury. The veteran has been out of action since sustaining the knock in a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City on May 27, but returned to full training for the first time in over a month on Tuesday and seems ready to suit up vs. the Crew so long as he continues to make strides in his recovery and doesn’t suffer any unforeseen setbacks.
Whether McCarty is fit enough to go the distance after such a long layoff is still undetermined, however.
“Obviously it’s not very easy for him being out this long just to jump back in and be ready to start and be ready to go 90 minutes, of course,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke in his weekly media conference call on Tuesday. “It’s a very positive sign that he was in full, he did work on the days off the last couple of days.
“As far as this weekend goes, if he continues to progress in the next three days like has over the past couple of weeks and continues to be in full every day, there’s really no scenario that’s off the table. As far as starting, as far as coming off the bench, anything’s possible.”
The same cannot be said about Roy Miller. The Red Bulls left back has been ruled out of the match vs. the Crew due to a left leg injury picked up while with Costa Rica at the World Cup, where he played the full 90 minutes in the Ticos’ scoreless draw vs. England on June 24.
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Miller is not currently with the club, as the Red Bulls have given him an excused absence to celebrate Costa Rica’s historic quarterfinals finish in Brazil.
“Obviously with Costa Rica’s success in the World Cup, they have some big festivities back in Costa Rica so we allowed him to go back there for a day or two to be involved with that,” Petke said. “I think that’s important. If he was 100 percent healthy and ready to go, I think not only from our standpoint, but from his standpoint, things would have been different.
“But being that he wouldn’t be available this weekend due to his injury, I think it was very important and a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him to be able to go back there from Brazil with the rest of the team and be honored like they’re going to be honored.”
With Miller out, 23-year-old Ambroise Oyongo is all but certain to once again fill in for the Costa Rican in New York’s defense. Oyongo has started both of the Red Bulls’ past two games and proven to be serviceable, delivering an assist in each of those matches.
The Cameroonian is playing well enough right now that Petke is considering altering his lineup when Miller returns and recovers from injury so as to have both of the left-sided players on the field at the same time.
“Going on how I was last year, there would never be a situation that a player leaves at that standard and if he comes back and has that same standard, it would be very hard for me to put Roy Miller on the bench,” said Petke. “Having said that, Oyongo has played well, but I also think this is a young kid who is gaining tremendous amounts of experience and I don’t see a situation that we could just put a kid like Oyongo on the bench for the next 18 games.
“This is one of the challenging parts of my job, could it be Oyongo [at left midfield]? We were thinking also maybe Roy as a guy who could play left midfield and we also have Eric [Alexander] who I like out there no matter what the consensus is. These are situations that are going to have be decided on, and they’re going to be tough decisions.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.