The New York Red Bulls back line cannot stay healthy.
Just as Damien Perrinelle makes his return from a long-term injury layoff, Gideon Baah sustains a fractured tibia and is ruled out for the rest of the 2016 season. This leaves the Red Bulls with three healthy center backs on the roster, which is hardly enough to deal with the combined schedule of MLS and CONCACAF Champions League matches.
Where will the club look for a replacement center back in its hour of need? Here are the options:
Play someone out of position
The Red Bulls have already deployed fullbacks Chris Duvall and Kemar Lawrence at center back this season. Duvall has featured regularly at the position, although he has struggled to contain physical target strikers. It's possible but not likely that the diminutive Connor Lade could also line up at center back, a position he played in college. If the Red Bulls don't want to waste a roster slot on another center back, then Duvall is the most likely course of action.
Sign a center back
New York already made one emergency deal this season, acquiring Aurelien Collin from Orlando City SC. It's possible they could again look for a player inside MLS or attempt to sign one of the world's many available free agent center backs. Luckily for the Red Bulls, Baah's injury occurred during the summer transfer window when most players are out of contract, so there's an opportunity to bring in potential signings to trial with the club.
Recall Karl Ouimette
Karl Ouimette is currently on loan with the Jacksonville Armada of the NASL. He recently made his debut in a 2-1 win over the Puerto Rico Islanders. His loan is scheduled to last through the remainder of the 2016 season, but in the past the Red Bulls have recalled players when needed.
Whether New York views Ouimette as a viable option is unknown. He made seven appearances this season, but fell below an out-of-position Duvall on the depth chart before being loaned out.
Promote a player internally
While the New York Red Bulls have a shortage, the club's reserve side has at least five healthy center backs. Zach Carroll began the season with the senior team before signing a contract with Red Bulls II, Tim Schmoll is a towering physical presence, and Aaron Long has spent time with the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders. Long has been particularly impressive in reserve matches, and possesses the versatility to play center back, fullback, and defensive midfielder.
In the near future, the Red Bulls can sign players from the reserve team to short-term deals. A new rule was created during the offseason allowed MLS teams to sign up to four USL players on four-day contracts.
As reported by Eric Giacometti, the Red Bulls have not decided how they're going to replace Baah:
Discussions ongoing if #RBNY has enough to to fill the void internally or if a move needs to be made. "Haven't had time to truly evaluate."- Eric Giacometti (@Eric_Giacometti) July 11, 2016
The club has some time to make a decision, as the MLS transfer window doesn't close until September. The front office may opt to do a combination of two or three things on this list. In all likelihood, they'll sign USL players on short-term loans and test Duvall at center back again. If those options don't pan out, they'll consider something more drastic like testing the transfer market.