August 19, 2014
Petke considering a number of possible lineups for CCL confrontation with FAS
By Michael Lewis
|Mike Petke: "We’ve been talking a lot about it but have not finalized anything yet. We have a bunch of scenarios that we are discussing. We’re obviously taking [the] Champions League very seriously."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Mike Petke will be making a bunch of lists, checking out who will be playing naughty and nice.
No, the Red Bulls head coach isn't planning for Christmas, at least not this early, but rather trying to see what type of team he will deploy for the CONCACAF Champions League opener against CD FAS next Tuesday.
Petke said Tuesday he had several scenarios in mind, but obviously was far from making a final decision because there is a home game against the Montreal Impact Saturday and what transpires in that game will impact, so to speak on what roster he and his coaching staff decide on for the El Salvadoran team at Red Bull Arena three days later.
"We’ve been talking a lot about it but have not finalized anything yet," he said during his Tuesday conference call with the Red Bulls media. "We have a bunch of scenarios that we are discussing. We’re obviously taking [the] Champions League very seriously.
"You have to deal with that and you have to figure out what the best route to go is. Montreal is a huge game, not just because it’s an MLS game, but because it’s also a conference game. Those are huge. We’re going to continue to discuss today and we’ll see how guys recover from [the] Montreal game and take it from there."
Petke said he has 21 players healthy and ready to go this weekend. It will be stunning if he uses the same Starting XI vs. FAS that he will utilize against Montreal. One possible lineup would be a team of non-regulars, but that would be taking it to the other extreme. Another possibility and compromise would a split-squad with perhaps some key players ready to come off the bench.
The players certainly won't have much time to recover from the Montreal encounter and prepare for FAS. They play Saturday. The day after a match is considered a recover day; that would be Sunday. Then the team would have to prep for the El Salvadoran side Monday before playing them at RBA Tuesday.
"It’s tough, it’s extremely tough to deal with things like this," Petke said. "We dealt with it a bit, and other teams did as well with the [Lamar Hunt/U.S.] Open Cup. Scheduling, I assume, is never easy to figure out from an MLS standpoint, but at the end of the day, you get told when you’re going to play and it’s your job to show up and be ready. I’m hoping and confident that our guys will be."
Petke added: "In those two days you really can’t accomplish much physically because you really need them to rest but you can’t let them sit down and do nothing. It’ll be a lot of very light walk-through type stuff getting prepared for the game and just relying on the doctors and the medical staff to turn these guys around physically and have them ready to play."
So the Red Bulls will go from one extreme -- playing twice in four days after getting a much-needed bye last week. They were able to catch their collective breaths, getting three days off before starting their stretch run and their CCL quest as well.
"Obviously, it was a great time to have that break," Petke said. "We got some practice late last week, gave them three days off now we have a full five days leading up to Montreal and after that, not to look past Montreal, FAS in the Champions League. There's a lot of games coming up. That's why its important that everybody is mentally and physically ready to go."
Petke demonstrated some shrewd diplomacy when comparing two competitions -- MLS and the CCL.
"We're very excited to be in the Champions League," he said. "It's very important and a great platform for us. However, if you put the two competitions next to each other, I wouldn't put one ahead of the other, but I'll tell you that making the playoffs and MLS is extremely important obviously not only to me and the players, but to the organization. it's going to be an interesting dynamic to put this together and figure out who is going to play when."
Let's face it. Reaching the MLS playoffs has to be the No. 1 priority for any club in the 19-team and 19-year-old league. Doing well and advancing to the knockout stage of the CCL would be icing on the cake.
By next Tuesday we'll know whether the Red Bulls will be able to have their cake and eat it, too.