Season Preview: The Center of the Park

Jennifer Stewart

We all know who's going to be in the middle of the field for the Red Bulls come March 3. But who's going to back them up?

With the MLS season just a few days away, we preview the Red Bulls with daily position-by-position previews. You can read all of them here. Today: The Red Bulls' situation at central midfielder.

It doesn't take a mind reader/rocket scientist/brain surgeon (take your pick) to know when the Red Bulls take the field against the Portland Timbers March 3 -- barring any injuries -- the three players in the middle of the field in Head Coach Mike Petke's starting XI are going to be Tim Cahill, Juninho and Dax McCarty.

A designated player, a legend of the game and one of the league's best defensive midfielders makes for a pretty solid trifecta in the middle of the park.

The issue is, who fills in if one of them goes down?

Eric Alexander, acquired in a trade with the Timbers, is an option and he did feature prominently in the Desert Diamond Cup games after the trade. But after that, it gets a little dicey.

Ian Christianson, the Red Bulls lone SuperDraft pick out of Georgetown, did not play in the first three games in Arizona, sitting out with an injury he tweeted (but has apparently taken down). He seems poised to back up McCarty at the defensive midfield position.

But that's only two players. Michael Bustamante, a Boston University product and Supplemental Draft pick, could be a solution as well. Ruben Izquierdo, who seemed more of a winger when first brought on, played there in his first preseason game against the Seattle Sounders and looked alright.

Newly acquired Jonny Steele could potentially fill a role in the midfield as well, but that remains to be seen.

Both McCarty and Cahill can go the full 90 regardless of their condition otherwise. They aren't so much the issue as Juninho, who's closer to 40 than he is 30, is. Finding a replacement for him, despite his reported fitness, should he go down, is still something of an issue.

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