June 18, 2012
TRYING TO PLUG SOME HOLES
Injuries, Conde, green-card situation limits Backe's options vs. Whitecaps
By Michael Lewis
|The absence of midfielder-forward Mehdi Ballouchy will limit the options of who coach hans Backe will start at Vancouver on Wednesday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
OK, let's see what the Red Bulls have. Or in this case, don't have for their Wednesday night encounter at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Designated players Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez are back home, mending injuries they incurred during the three-week break from Major League Soccer play.
Coach Hans Backe doesn't want to use central defender Wilman Conde, who returned to action after missing nine games with a groin injury because of fears of pushing him too hard.
"I donít think he [Conde] will be able to play three games in one week," Backe said. "Iím quite sure heíd pick up an injury. . . . We canít force him too early now after being out so long, and he played very few games last year."
And Mehdi Ballouchy, the coach's top choice to play midfield or forward in a spot role or off the bench, cannot trave out of the country because he is still awaiting for his green card (anyone with a green card cannot leave and then return to the United States).
Sort of limits Backe's options, doesn't it?
And as ti turns out, Backe won't be able to coach the team at BC Place (MSG+, 11 p.m. ET) because he won't be able to attend the game due to "personal reasons."
During a Monday afternoon conference call, Backe said his primary concern was to improve the team's defense in wake of Sunday's 3-1 defeat at the Chicago Fire, but he needs to do something with his midfield because it appears someone will wind up playing out of position.
"It depends what playing style we choose," he said. "For Wednesday our starting point needs to be to defend better. We canít stop conceding goals like this. But it depends, we can do some small changes with the playing style to hopefully defend better."
If Conde can't go, Backe will have to use either Heath Pearce to team in the middle with Swede Markus Holgersson or tap Steven Keel from the bench. Brandon Barklage is the first choice on the right flank, while it appears Backe hasn't given up completedly on inconsistent Roy Miller on the left.
If Backe sticks with something like that in back, the midfield and forward will be headaches (remember, Teemu Tainio, who was who supposed to be the defenive mid, might not play again this season).
Not having the versatile Ballouchy, even for one game, certainly hurts as Backe will have to work around that.
Backe can partner striker Kenny Cooper with rookie Jhonny Arteaga, who has not made an MLS start.
If he uses Dane Richards up front with Cooper, then there will be holes in the midfield. Jan Gunnar Solli can start on the left side, Joel Lindpere and Dax McCarty can wind up in the middle, although there will be question marks on the right flank. Victor Palsson? Connor Lade? A surprise choice?
We'll find out soon enough.
"Yeah. I will change, perhaps, some playing style with Medhi out we can play Jhonny up front it we want," Backe said. "We can play Kenny Cooper by himself up front, that is definitely a possibility. But, with Medhi out, we donít have any natural striker. Joel [Lindpere] could be an option to play as a second striker, and getting in the middle of the far central which he likes to play.
"We know quite well how we will line up before the game, but I donít want to give the Vancouver team any tips. But of course with Medhi out there is some change."