BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Two major issues cursed the Red Bulls during the 2012 season; their propensity to give up the early goal and their inability to escape injuries.
One of those issues has been left behind in preseason, while the other has made it’s presence known just one game into the season.
Brazilian midfielder Juninho, New York’s 38 year old offseason acquisition, was held out of Thursday’s training due to a calf strain in his left leg. Worse yet, it looks like he won’t be taking the field when New York travels out to San Jose to face the Earthquakes.
“He’s likely going to be out this weekend,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke revealed. “It’s a situation that is being evaluated right now.”
Labeling the injury a “little issue with his calf,” the rookie head coach was made aware of the issue prior to Wednesday’s full practice. There, Juninho was limited to warm-ups and left off the team’s major assignments. “No final decision has been made yet,” warned Petke, “but I may be leaning towards (sitting him for San Jose).”
In over 20 years as a professional, Sunday marked Juninho’s first official game on turf. “Maybe that contributed to it,” Petke conceded, “but I think a lot of travel, the cold weather. It didn’t seem too serious yesterday, he just took a step in practice. It was very cold out obviously, soft field and he checked out and we are going to hold him out most likely for the game.”
If anyone knows the struggles associated with turf play, it is team captain Thierry Henry. When asked about turf affecting Juninho’s play, Henry let out a sympathetic chuckle. Prior to the match, Juninho turned to Henry for some advice on how to handle those conditions.
“What I told him was ‘all the very best!’ That was my advice for him,” Henry deadpanned. “We’ll see if he is going to be able to travel to San Jose but my advice wasn’t good enough I guess.”
“He only played one game with us,” he continued. “You know how important he is for us in the middle. When I first arrived in the league, you have to deal with all the stuff I mentioned before and he is going to have to go through that. Unfortunately for us, with the way we travelled to Portland playing on turf.”
Looking for a silver lining, Petke pointed towards the benefits a bit of rest can give Juninho, particularly as the team looks past San Jose for their much anticpated home opener against DC United.
“We don’t know the extent of it but my thought process is another West coast trip, if there is any issue whatsoever, I would rather have him 100% and rested for the opener at home,” Petke concluded. “He worked his ass off against Portland, he has been working his ass off in training and preseason. It’s a situation, travel so much in this league, two west coast trips and we knew not just with him but with certain players, that’s why it was important to get depth this year because we know we are going to have to rest certain players here and there and I am taking it as a resting thing. I don’t see it as a long term thing.”