HANOVER, N.J. – Their toughest stretch of games has finally come to an end, but things aren’t getting any easier for the New York Red Bulls.
After traversing a spell of six games in 19 days, the Red Bulls are now in the midst of a six-day period in which they do not play. It’s the first time that’s happened since early June. And while returning to a somewhat regular schedule will help to rest up some tired legs, the Red Bulls have suddenly become paper thin in defense.
Losing Chris Duvall and Ronald Zubar to injury just as the Gold Cup sees the likes of Roy Miller (Cosa Rica), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) and Karl Ouimette (Canada) called up to represent their respective countries has put the Red Bulls in a tough spot. Down five first-choice defenders, head coach Jesse Marsch now has the unenviable task of working with what’s left as important Eastern Conference matchups loom large starting Saturday at home with rival New England Revolution (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
“It’s a difficult moment for us,” Marsch said. “We knew going into it that we were going to be missing some players. Right now we are thin in the back, but we still feel like we have some guys that can fill in in a good way. There will be the opportunity for other guys to potentially fill in in some of those spots, some of our midfielders, we may look at as outside backs. We may have to have a little bit of flexibility within our team.”
The transfer window opening could present a chance to bolster the group, but the challenge of thinking long-term while faced with a short-term problem weighs heavily on the Marsch’s mind.
“We’ve looked at a few different things in terms of trades and transfers,” Marsch said. “Ali [Curtis, Red Bulls sporting director] is looking into some things on that front. But we don’t want to do anything that is just going to be for the next two or three games. We more want to look at how it’s going to affect our team moving forward. It’s a little bit of an issue for us right now, but we’ll get through it in the right way.”
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Starting responsibilities now fall to second- and third-choice defenders such as Connor Lade and Anthony Wallace. Midfielder Sean Davis has been training at right back and contends he is becoming “a lot more comfortable” in that role.
“To be honest, I don’t think it really affects us,” defender Matt Miazga told MLSsoccer.com. “Obviously, we didn’t play as much with the guys coming in, but from the beginning of the season, everyone’s known their role. Everyone understands the system we play, so I think it’ll be a seamless transition with whomever Jesse puts in. And we expect them to do the same job as the other guys.”