The New York Red Bulls’ attack has gone cold lately, with only four goals scored in their last five games, a stretch in which they’ve gone 0-1-4.
It’s hardly the ideal run-up to Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup final vs. Sporting Kansas City (9 pm ET | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) – but Jesse Marsch just might have a trick up his sleeve in the mission to upset the three-time tournament champions on their own turf.
For more than a month, Red Bulls striker Daniel Royer has been recovering from a knee injury with a specific eye on Wednesday’s match, and he might just be available to play a supersub role at Children’s Mercy Park.
“When he was injured, we came up with a timeframe that we thought would line up with the Open Cup final,” head coach Jesse Marsch revealed in a media conference call on Monday. “He’s in full training and we’ll have to make a decision. I don’t think he’s ready to start, but I think he’s a consideration for the 18[-man gameday roster].”
The Austrian international was the hottest scorer in MLS before sustaining a hyperextended right knee and accompanying bone bruise in RBNY’s 3-2 loss at rivals New York City FC on Aug. 6. He’d reeled off six goals and an assist as the Red Bulls rolled to a 4-0 mark in July, earning Alcatel Player of the Month honors.
Even after missing their past six games, Royer remains his team’s second-leading scorer in 2017 league play with 10 goals, behind only Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 15. The duo have netted nearly twice as many as the rest of their teammates combined; Alex Muyl sits in third place on New York’s scoring chart with three goals.
Perhaps hesitant to show his cards two days before the match, Marsch framed Royer’s availability as a gametime decision. Open Cup roster rules add a further wrinkle to the situation: Teams can use only five foreign players per match, meaning that RBNY can ill afford to waste a slot on a player who can’t contribute.
But Royer’s finishing prowess might just be the X-factor for the Red Bulls.
“We just have to evaluate where he’s at physically and how he feels, and then also looking at our international restrictions – you’re only allowed five in this tournament, so you have to try to get the balance right in terms of which foreigners you’re calling on,” said Marsch. “The only way that we can really put Danny on the roster is if we feel like he’s 100 percent and he’s ready to go, and I think he’s close.”