Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
HARRISON, N.J. — One of the players that has helped spark the New York Red Bulls’ offense the last couple of weeks might not be healthy enough to play this weekend.
Lloyd Sam’s availability for the Red Bulls’ home game against Toronto FC on Saturday is in doubt after the right-sided midfielder was seen leaving practice early on Friday morning with a trainer. Sam, who for precautionary measures trained individually on Thursday after feeling tightness in his groin, started Friday’s session by taking part in the team drills but was not able to last until the end of practice.
“I haven’t got the 100 percent word if he’s good to go or not,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “I know that he walked off, he felt a little something, so it doesn’t look phenomenal (but) it doesn’t look dire as well. We’re somewhere in the middle. It’s going to be a decision that we make, if not right after I go inside and figure things out, then possibly wait for the last minute before the game tomorrow to make a determination.”
If Sam is out against Toronto FC, the Red Bulls will be without one of their more creative midfielders. Sam has started and scored in each of New York’s last two games and has also shown a propensity for delivering dangerous crosses.
“In the case that (he is sidelined), it’ll be a big loss,” said midfielder Dax McCarty. “He’s a guy that I think when he’s gotten his chance this year, he’s taken it and done really well, and the past couple of weeks have just kind of been the cherry on top for him.
“I think he’s a guy that always needs to make sure he’s fully fit because when he’s fully fit, he’s incredibly dangerous. He’s a guy that brings a little bit of a speed element to our team, but he’s a lot more than speed. He’s got great technical ability and he’s very direct. He’s a change of pace than what we’ve had for the most part this year in the midfield. It would be a big loss, but we’re hoping he can come through and recover and obviously keep bringing what he’s been bringing to the table.”
With Sam’s status for Saturday up in the air, Petke will have to start thinking of alternatives just in case the veteran midfielder is unable to go. The most obvious decision would be to push Eric Alexander back out wide, but that would leave a hole in the middle given that Tim Cahill is still not fully recovered from an ankle injury.
In any case, Petke has players from which to choose from.
“There’s many options, many options,” said Petke. “We slipped Peguy (Luyindula) back in the midfield for the latter part of the game last week, we have a young Michael Bustamante who has played well and is hungry, we can slide Eric out wide, we have a young Marius Obekop who is hungry and coming along, we have options to put Bradley Wright-Phillips out wide.
“We have options. It’s first and foremost to see what Lloyd’s prognosis is and figure out what the best course is.
What do you think of Sam possibly missing out on Saturday’s match vs. Toronto FC? Who would you like to see start in his place if he can’t go?
Share your thoughts below.