As the dark cloud hovers over the FIFA-CONCACAF bribery scandal that now looms over this month’s Gold Cup tournament that started yesterday, a dark cloud hovers over Red Bull Arena and the New York Red Bulls. Five starters will be missing for their respective teams battling for the bi-annual trophy as the region’s champion.
Those five are Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream for the USA, Rafa Marquez (Mexico), Dwayne De Rosario for Canada and Dane Richards for Jamaica. They will be away for national team duty and hopefully will have a chance to play in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil if their team wins the Gold Cup trophy.
But with six matches within the month of June, this will be a trying time for the Red Bulls as they test the depth of their roster to pull out as many points as possible. They will start at home against Columbus and New England. Then away at Portland and Seattle, returning to the midwest against Chicago, then a late US Open Cup match in round three, before going back to the west coast on 4th of July weekend at San Jose.
“It’s a challenge for us, but it’s an opportunity for the guys,” said Head Coach Hans Backe. “If you want to put new guys in, it’s not fair to put five guys in at once. To put in two guys, it’s okay just to see how they can handle the level of play.”
But for a veteran like Thierry Henry, he knows that this is a new thing for him and it sounded like he was ready for this problem to arrive. “It is important to have young guys around with the team” said Henry. “A lot of teams are missing players, [it] doesn’t mean you have to draw, lose or concede some goals. It is about a team that makes everything go round.”
To be honest it’s the brave thing to say when you have a match calendar like MLS has and it is a pain in the butt when you are missing your top two center backs and two top midfielders along with the future of the US National Team. When this problem will stop with MLS playing matches during the Confederational tournament of CONCACAF, I have no idea. But I think it’s time to make this Gold Cup a once in every four year cycle.
Let’s not forget that this tournament was originally played during the off-season of MLS in January when the USA won in 2002 against Costa Rica at the Rose Bowl and then made that great run in South Korea/Japan in the summer. It would be the 2003 edition that would move the tournament from the winter into the summer, so more players from CONCACAF wouldn’t miss time with their club teams from Europe.
So as we watch some of our MLS sides playing without their top players for the month of June, it will be exciting to see a new or repeat champion crowned as the kings of CONCACAF and make a bigger splash in the Confederations Cup in two years. Football never gets dull.