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September 24, 2013
Petke won't risk players' health on turf; Henry, Olave 'huge question marks' for Seattle

Mike Petke says that he won't risk the health of Thierry Henry (above) even in a game that has Supporters Shield implications.
Mike Petke says that he won't risk the health of Thierry Henry (above) even in a game that has Supporters Shield implications.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

Even with such a vital game at the Seattle Sounders with Supporters Shield and Major League Soccer playoff implications at stake, Red Bulls coach head Mike Petke refuses to put his players' healthy before glory or points on the pitch.

In other words, don't expect two of the club's most important players, captain and striker Thierry Henry and central defender Jamison Olave to suit up and play for the Red Bulls at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night.

Henry, who has had chronic problems with his Achilles and Olave, who has knee problems, have been held out of matches due to his knee,

"Both those guys are huge question marks," Petke said during his weekly conference call with the media on Tuesday. "I would probably lean toward more no, they would not be going."

Both of their absence would the Red Bulls quest for the Supporters Shield in the top-of-the-table clash between the Eastern Conference-leading Red Bulls and the Sounders, who are atop the Western Conference.

The Red Bulls lead the Sounders by a precious point in the Supporters Shield race, but Petke felt there was something more than to sacrifice any player for MLS glory.

"I haven't had a direct conversation with [Henry] about it yet, but going by history, it would appear that he wouldn't be available," Petke said. "It's very easy for supporters, even media, to say it's a huge game an that it's ridiculous or whatever. But you have to go with the doctors, talk to the doctors. It's not something that he doesn't like turf. He has a chronic issue with the Achilles. And if its a situation where I am told by the doctor that it can be damaged then its a situation or you going to sacrifice to take that risk for one game no matter what the significance is, when there are still four more left, three more left to play in the regular season and hopefully the playoffs.

Henry started in the team's 3-3 season-opening draw on the artificial surface at JELD-WEN Stadium in Portland on March 3, but missed the Red Bulls' 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution on the turf at Gillette Stadium on May 11.

He also missed two games on grass earlier this season due to his He did not travel to Montreal for the 1-0 to the Impact on March 23 because of a left knee sprain and did not go to Columbus (grass) for the 2-0 defeat to the Crew because of Achilles inflammation on Aug. 10.

"It is a big game, but the health of him as one of our key players is extremely important," Petke said. "I wouldn't 100 percent rule him out, but going by history, I wouldn't hold out a ton of hope that he would be playing on turf this weekend. But you never now."

The same goes for Olave. Petke said that "once you hear from doctors that you trust [and are part of] our organization and medical staff," you have to listen to them.

"It could be he could go through all 90 minutes. Or it could be one bad turn on the turf and you lose him for the whole season," Petke said. "You go back to yes, it is an important game but is it important enough to risk a key defender for the remainder of the year?"

Olave missed the April 17 game against Sporting Kansas City with a left knee injury.

But let's say Petke had to face a similar situation a month from now in the MLS playoffs, what exactly would his decision be?

"Let's get it out of the way. When it comes to a players' health and their livelihood. I'm not making the sole decision here," Petke said. "I would never, if a player or a doctor feels comfortable and there is proof ... or a doctors' professional opinion and yes this is not the right way to go. It's not me saying, no, he's playing. I would never do that. If I would have to guess and it's MLS Cup on turf or it was a key playoff game on turf, I think the likelihood would be a bit more in their mind to say, you know, the hell with it. I'm going to risk it ... because of the significance. I am not putting words in any players' mouths. We're talking about a game that's still in the regular season with big games to come. It's tough to answer that question."
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