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February 27, 2013
Needing more fitness, Sam fighting for a spot on the Red Bulls' right side of midfield

Red Bulls right midfielder Lloyd Sam still needs to get into proper fitness.
Red Bulls right midfielder Lloyd Sam still needs to get into proper fitness.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Kristian R. Dyer Contributing Editor

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke wants to see more from Lloyd Sam, especially playing in the team’s new 4-3-3 system.

Sam signed with the Red Bulls late last summer and was a revelation on the right side of the midfield, showing speed and good delivery of the ball from the right flank. But with the Red Bulls hiring Petke and abandoning the 4-4-2, Sam now needs to be fit and ready for a heavier workload in a three-man midfield.

As such, he may not automatically regain his spot in the Starting XI for the season opener in Portland on Sunday as he continues to eye match fitness.

Petke was no nonsense when asked how ready Sam is to play with the season’s start only four days away.

“Lloyd is working hard, getting back to the fitness he needs to be at," he said. "There’s a lot of competition for a lot of positions out there. There definitely is not a name put on every position at this point of who is certainly going to be a starter.

“Lloyd needs to continue to work hard, keep proving himself both on the ball and behind the ball as well – most importantly perhaps [in that regard].”

While he has participated in pre-season, Sam still has a while to go in terms of getting ready to play in the season opener. He still needs to find his confidence on the ball and of course, full fitness, especially so he can have an impact in Petke’s grueling style that requires plenty of work from the flank players.

With that being said, Petke does like what he saw of Sam last year when the player was daring in the attack, something the Red Bulls lacked in the final third. He didn’t see that attitude as much as he would have liked last year.

“They were more concerned with playing sideways and backwards and keeping the ball and then he shows up and likes to run at the people from the first game and dribble at people. It was great, it was exciting [and] then he gets injured,” Petke said.

“We need to get him back to where he’s at his 100 percent best. We’ve had a couple conversations with him in pre-season and he’s not there yet. So when he gets there we’re going to have another conversation and figure things out from there.”

Follow contributing editor Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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