When the New York Red Bulls traded away Ambroise Oyongo back in January, they created a little problem for themselves on the left side of the field: they had only one recognized specialist left back - Roy Miller - and zero left wingers.
It took a while, but subsequent events made clear the club was not blind to its lack of depth out on the left side of the field. When Andrew Jean-Baptiste was signed (the same day Oyongo was moved on), it was suggested the center back could provide cover on the left. More recently, a flurry of signings have brought additional help for the left flank: Karl Ouimette (signed March 5) can play left back; so too can Kemar Lawrence (signed March 16) - indeed, he made his debut at the position against D.C. United in MLS Week 3.
In addition, the club re-signed young left-footed attacking midfielder Marius Obekop (March 21), providing further depth.
All set for the new season. Miller, Lawrence, Ouimette, AJB or even Connor Lade in a pinch to cover left back. Lawrence and Obekop can also challenge the guys Marsch has been looking at for left midfield minutes (Mike Grella, Sal Zizzo and Dane Richards to date).
But wait: there could be one more. Big Apple Soccer has reported comments made by Jesse Marsch on the club's weekly media conference call:
"We're trying to get something done with Anthony Wallace and we're hopeful to have something done this week,"
ANOTHER left back? C'mon Jesse: it was a gap, you filled it; move on.
Except, of course, Jesse can't move on. First choice left back Roy Miller was missing from this week's action because he's injured. That is, of course, why a team needs back up. Also, were Miller fully fit, he might be in contention to play for his national team (he missed out on a call up for the March international window).
Last week's left back, Kemar Lawrence, is going to play for Jamaica in March - making him unavailable for RBNY's next match, against Columbus on March 28. Karl Ouimette has answered Canada's call. Andrew Jean-Baptiste reportedly has an injury, though he is not listed on the clubs injury report - and he has attracted interest from the Haiti national team.
Right now, with Miller's injury expected to persist, the most ready candidate for left back duty is Connor Lade. If he were to be injured, the club could be looking at a choice between rookie full back Shawn McLaws and creative repurposing of one of its midfielders.
And this problem is not likely to be limited to this week: there is a Gold Cup this summer and Canada, Costa Rica, Haiti and Jamaica are all involved. Worst case: Miller, Lawrence, Ouimette and AJB are all out for a chunk of June and July (the tournament starts July 7; it can be assumed teams won't show up without some time together for training).
When Jesse Marsch suggests, as he did on this week's conference call, that he's hoping to sign MLS-experienced, (don't worry - no longer in contention) USMNT-capped, left-sided defender/midfielder Anthony Wallace and considers him an immediate contender with Lade to start at left back - that's a choice he knows he might have to think about repeatedly this year.
Does a team with up to five players capable of playing left back on the roster really need a sixth? Surprisingly, the answer is probably yes.