Oh, RBNY, you great big tease you, we'd been starting to panic.
Over at Soccer By Ives, Franco Panizo is reporting some good news: the New York Red Bulls have negotiated a deal to keep Roy Miller out of Costa Rica's Copa Centroamericana squad until (or unless) Los Ticos hit the tournament final.
Twitter, as is so often the case, summarized the news best:
— Isaac (@isaacccccccccc) August 26, 2014
It has been hard to keep up with RBNY's mounting problems at left back over the last few days. But until Panizo spoke to the right people, the understanding was that the Red Bulls had a problem.
And who would that be? Kosuke Kimura has filled in at left back with some credit in the past, but he was out of last week's match against Montreal with a hamstring injury. Bobby Convey has played the position, but he is out of favor, and hasn't been seen at training for a while (Petke says he's unwell). Connor Lade can play left back - at least, he could two years ago, which was the last time anyone around the team was willing to trust him with extended minutes - but he dislocated a shoulder recently. Ian Christianson was once described as a left-footed defensive midfielder, but he was sent back from his Orlando City loan spell due to injury.
The team was flirting with the likelihood that it would have to take on two extremely important home games (RBNY needs points urgently, if you hadn't noticed) against the two best teams in the East with a severely undermanned back line.
An already suspect and unreliable defense made weaker just at the point when the team can afford it least. Great.
This is presumably why the Red Bulls sought to negotiate with Paolo Wanchope, Costa Rica's head coach. And that in itself is a good and wonderful thing.
These sort of discussions likely happen much more frequently than we hear about - because what is the point of reporting a failed effort? And some thanks is owed to Wanchope and the Costa Rican federation. They had summoned Miller for an international tournament. FIFA mandates players be released for international duty for the early September internationals.
Further, there is the player to consider. Miller probably, and not unreasonably, probably wants to win things with both his club and his country. He doesn't schedule games, he just tries to get selected to play in them. It would be horrible to force a choice on a man with plenty of football left in him and surely no desire to close the door on either his homeland or the club he has played for longer than anyone else on the roster.
An unhappy player is a distracted player, which would not bode well for his performance for either team. Any agreement would have to be with the blessing of both club and country, assuring Miller that his future for either side is not jeopardized.
This would appear to have been figured out. Per Panizo's report, Miller will stay with RBNY through its 9/6 and 9/10 games - thereby easing the Red Bulls' left back issues. That is Costa Rica's concession: Los Ticos could have dug their heels in and insisted Miller be released for the FIFA-mandated period, which would have allowed them to select him for the Copa Centroamericana group stage games on 9/3 and 9/7.
But RBNY could equally have insisted he be returned to his club after the FIFA break, which would have taken Miller away from his team for the final (if Los Ticos make it) on 9/13.
Either way, hostility between club and country puts a player under pressure that probably isn't great for his focus and well-being.
The reported arrangement is Miller will be allowed to join Costa Rica if it makes the CCA final, meaning he may miss the trip to Philadelphia on 9/13. But Oyongo should be back from his international duties by then, and RBNY is arguably correct in prioritizing having its strongest lineups available for home games.
Costa Rica doesn't need to let Miller hang around RBNY to play KC and DC. RBNY doesn't need to let him play the CCA final. And there really isn't a perfect solution from Miller's perspective, but at least this way he helps his club when it is greatest need of his services, and he may still get a shot at winning a Central American championship.
This is pragmatic work on RBNY's part, and that of the Costa Rican federation.
So thank you Roy for giving up on at least part of an international tournament for this team. And well done Roxy, Petke or whoever made the calls that needed to be made.
None of this guarantees RBNY any points from any of its future matches.
But the front office made some moves in the offseason which now look very much like mistakes that cost the team any momentum it might have had from its 2013 success. It has been deservedly criticized.
Now it is doing what it can to optimize the team's strength through an extremely difficult - and crucial - stretch of games. It deserves praise.
Good work, RBNY. And thank you. Your efforts are appreciated. Here's hoping it all comes good on the field.