[MLS INJURY REPORT]The New York Red Bulls, the masters of misfortune, self-inflicted and otherwise, have taken another blow. A PCL strain of the right knee has sidelinedLloyd Sam, whose blazing speed in his few appearances had unhinged opponents in much the same way as former Red Bull Dane Richards, who was traded to Vancouver in July. Sam, a veteran of many seasons in the English lower leagues, signed with MLS in August.
Though he played just 164 minutes in five matches (two starts), Sam, 28, had quickly adapted to MLS. His speed on the wing opened up the attacking zone for Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, and he picked up a secondary assist on a Cooper goal in a 4-1 rout of Toronto Sept. 29.
With defenders Brandon Barklage and Wilman Conde already missing, the absence of Sam will force Coach Hans Backeto revamp his lineup once again. Conde has left the club for personal reasons and Barklage is sidelined with a plantar fascia injury in his left foot.
The most likely move is to return Jan Gunnar Solli to the right side of midfield, though Sebastian Le Toux – who came to New York in the Richards deal and has struggled since – could add more attacking punch. Solli has played a lot of right back for the Red Bulls but was moved into midfield when Barklage took over that slot.
RookieConnor Lade, who has played both outside back positions as well as in midfield, is another possibility to replace Sam though he seems set at right back. Backe has stated Rafael Marquez will remain a starter in defense in the absence of Conde, which indicates the back line will feature MarcusHolgersson as Marquez’s central partner and Heath Pearce at left back.
The Red Bulls are fourth in the Eastern Conference heading into their season finale at Philadelphia Saturday. Pending results of that match and the Chicago-D.C. United and Colorado-Houston games, they could finish as high as second or drop as far as fifth.