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Has Lloyd Sam Played Himself Off the Bench?

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Once the team's super sub, did Lloyd Sam play himself into a starting role last weekend?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We didn't need much convincing Lloyd Sam was suited for a starting role with the 2013 Red Bulls, but Mike Petke did, and since he's the one calling the shots, Sam sat.

That was until the Red Bulls got found out and needed a change heading into the Atlantic Cup finale against D.C. United. Sam provided that change, chipped in a goal and brought a new dimension to the Red Bulls' attack. And, in doing so, he may just have played his way into a starting role.

During his weekly conference call with reporters, Petke said Sam's performance against D.C. was "definitely a huge, positive sign."

"He gave me a reason enough to put him in the lineup for the game against D.C. and I think he did tremendous with it. So that's good for Lloyd - and it's good for us, as well - to know that that is definitely an option."

Though, if we're being fair to Sam, he's done quite well, period. With three goals in 498 minutes, he has the highest goals per 90 minutes total on the team, averaging just over half a goal a game. In his last three games, he's only played 142 minutes, but scored two goals, tallied his only assist of the season and earned Player of the Week awards from the league.

So not only does he bring something skill-wise -- speed, the ability to hit a good cross, attacking prowess -- he's hot.

And while Petke's statements above might suggest that he's still uneasy about playing the Englishman more regularly, his halftime talk Saturday night certainly suggested Petke sees something in Sam, instructing the team to play through him more often.

During the call, Petke did wonder aloud if Sam would be as effective every game, but he certainly has been lately, and Petke should go with the hot hand.