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Did Papa Red Bull break Matt Miazga?

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Matt Miazga's continued absence from preseason friendlies highlights the possibility there may have been more than one thing about his trip to Qatar that was misrepresented...

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Remember Matt Miazga? He's the New York Red Bulls' homegrown center back, one of just two players in that position to survive the off-season cull of the 2014 squad. (The other is Damien Perrinelle. Armando is, we must assume, still a Red Bull merely by technicality - he has a contract, but that largely seems to be in the service of an entry visa to the US and a gym membership. RBNY has shown no interest in getting him on the field so far in preseason.)

Miazga has had a busy off-season. From December 3-10, he was in a fitness camp as part of the US U-20 team's preparations for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Then he had a week in Honduras with the U-20 MNT before Christmas. In late December, he rolled into the final US U-20 training camp before the big show in Jamaica, and then he was a regular starter for the team at the tournament, which ran from January 9-24.

That's pretty much the entire off-season either in training or in competition. To top it off, Papa Red Bull arranged for Miazga to fly out to Qatar as soon as he was relieved of his national team obligations for a trial training stint (it was a trial) that ended roughly two days after he arrived. By February 3, he had joined RBNY's training camp in Orlando, almost two months to the day since he started his mid-winter world tour.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls signed a whole bunch of center backs and got on with preseason. The team played a closed-door friendly with the University of South Florida before Miazga returned. On February 5, the squad squeezed in two scrimmages - no Miazga.

No great reason for concern: he basically didn't have an off-season. If anything, it was a surprise Miazga was in camp at all in early February. One would have thought he needed a rest more than another training session.

But now he's been back for around three weeks. RBNY has been back home, and is now back in Florida. The team has played two more friendlies - against HB Koge and Oklahoma City Energy - without Miazga. Still no reason to panic: he could surely use an extended rest.

Except, he's not missing these games because he's resting, it would seem. Miazga's Qatar excursion was cut short because he picked up a knock in a scrimmage between RB Leipzig and Papa's Salzburg. The club went out of its way to make sure we understood the injury was not serious. Of course, evaluating an injury sustained in the Middle East from New Jersey isn't recommended medical practice, but it is said there have been great advances in telemetry.

When Miazga arrived in Florida in early February, that not-at-all-serious knock was described as a "right quad contusion", and the club's report stated it was hoped he'd back on the field in a week.

It has been more than a week since February 3. On February 20, RBNY's training report included reference to Miazga "beginning to train again". He's not even been training?

He needed a rest, so maybe he should have missed the bulk of the team's preseason work anyway. The Red Bulls have two friendlies left before, in theory, they wrap up training camp and head back to Harrison to get started on the regular season.

If Miazga doesn't play in either of those games, there would seem to be only one conclusion: a couple of days in Qatar wrecked his preseason. Papa Red Bull yanked a young player halfway round the world, broke him, and then sent him back to RBNY to get fixed. The injury may not have been serious, but missing out on the chance to challenge for a starting role right out of the gate surely is for a highly-rated (though presumably exhausted - he's had no off-season) young player.

The start of the regular season may yet be delayed due to MLS's ongoing labor negotiations. That scenario would reduce the significance of RB Leipzig's decision to break but not buy Matt Miazga. But it ought not to be permitted to let the situation escape notice.