While the entire New York Red Bulls team enjoyed the week off from practice, three players left to join their respective National teams for the World Cup Qualifiers this weekend. There was a recent time when international dates meant a number of key players missing for New York, but those days are past with MLS taking the welcome step of breaking for international dates and the Red Bulls roster shedding many of its international players from the 2011 season such as Juan Agudelo, Dane Richards, Dwayne De Rosario, and Tim Ream.
That leaves three active Red Bulls to join their respective national teams and lead them to, in theory, a spot in the 2014 World Cup. Right? Maybe not so much, as Estonia, Costa Rica, and Australia all face increasingly tough odds on their paths to qualification.
While it's always nice to see club players recognized with call-ups to their national teams, it's far from devastating to Red Bulls fans for some of these players to remain with the club if their countries fail to advance to subsequent rounds in their respective federation's qualifying campaigns. Although, with as much turnover that is happening in the upper levels of the Red Bulls organization, having key players freed from national team obligations might not matter since who knows who will be back in 2013. That said, here's a quick look at the Red Bulls, and their respective national teams, and what is happening this weekend.
Roy Miller - Costa Rica is playing for second place in Group B, as Mexico has already clinched first place. Their biggest test will come against El Salvador, who currently hold the second spot in Group B, but with only a one-point advantage over the Ticos. In their first meeting earlier in the summer, Roy Miller played a full ninety minutes and the teams battled to a 2-2 draw. Miller also went the distance in Costa Rica's first of two qualifiers against Guyana, where they earned a 4-0 win they will be hoping to mimic if they want to advance to the hexagonal.
Joel Lindpere - Just two games in, Estonia's hopes of advancing to the World Cup from UEFA could use a jumpstart. To start their group play, Lindpere played all of the second half of a 2-0 loss against group leading Romania, and the first 56 minutes in a 3-0 loss against Turkey. With matches against lower ranked countries Hungary and Andorra, they could make up some ground while dropping points would leave their chances at a World Cup berth in serious doubt.
Tim Cahill - After three games, Australia has yet to win against Jordan, Japan, or Oman. With Japan pulling away at the top of Group B, if Australia doesn't want it's World Cup dreams to fade, they need three points against Iraq next Tuesday or they risk falling out of reach of the 2014 World Cup. Cahill did not play in Australia's first match, but went the distance in their last two qualifiers back in September and will undoubtedly need to contribute more moving ahead if Australia is going to advance.
Other Red Bulls who have seen recent international action remained with the team over the break. The oft-injured Rafa Marquez will miss out on an October international call-up as Mexico is coasting through the round and didn't need to call upon their long time captain. And Puerto Rico, who did not qualify for the current CONCACAF round, did not schedule any friendlies coinciding with the international break so Bill Gaudette was also spared a call-up.
What do you think of these three team's chances to advance? Does anyone miss the days of seeing the Red Bulls represented with the U.S. Men's National Team? Let us know in the comments section below.