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Report: Omer Damari's injury problems are persistent

Not for the first time, injury is hampering Damari's effort to claim to a place in the lineup of a Red Bull soccer team.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It's not really fair to characterize the New York Red Bulls' decision to sign Omer Damari on loan for the rest of the 2016 MLS season as a "risk". The club knew what it was getting. As RBNY Sporting Director, Ali Curtis, said when the striker was signed:

We follow a lot of the Red Bull-associated clubs pretty closely, so we’ve gotten to see him play on a number of occasions, and we think he can add a lot of quality to what we’re doing in the final third.

And as Curtis told the New York Times:

He is part of our family of clubs, and understands the way we want to play. We think the transition will be quick. We worry less about the big name and more about how the players fit on the field.

There was - and still is - considerable upside to signing Damari. He's a proven goal scorer. He was Israel's Bradley Wright-Phillips for a while, scoring 71 goals in 135 appearances in all competitions for Hapoel Tel Aviv (BWP has 71 in 119 career appearances for RBNY). Austria Wien signed him in July 2014, and Damari's form didn't falter: he scored 10 goals in 15 appearances, as well as six for his national team during 2014. And Papa Red Bull snapped him up in January 2015.

Since then, Damari has played for three of Red Bull Global Soccer's teams - RB's Leipzig, Salzburg, and NY - and scored five goals: four for Salzburg and one for RBNY.

His scoring has slowed down mostly because he hasn't been playing all that much: 10 appearances for Leipzig, 16 for Salzburg, and four to date for RBNY. Injury is the primary explanation for his scant playing time for Papa's Euro RB clubs. And it would appear Ralf Rangnick's patience with Damari expired at some point during the player's protracted tour of the Red Bull physiotherapy units in Leipzig and Salzburg.

By the summer of 2016, Rangnick was plainly stating that Damari - under contract with Leipzig until 2018 - had effectively been given two options: take a loan to RBNY or hang out with the reserve team in Leipzig.

Ali Curtis and RBNY knew what they were getting: a player whose best form enticed Leipzig to pay handsomely for his services (he cost Red Bull soccer more than $5 million in transfer fees and is reported to be earning around $1.7 million a year), but who has a recent history of persistent injury.

The upside - Damari's scoring touch - has already been seen by RBNY. In four off-the-bench appearances, the forward has looked sharp and bagged a crucial equalizer in El Salvador to keep the team's CONCACAF Champions League campaign on track.

But the downside has come to the fore recently. Damari's signing was announced on August 4, he made his RBNY debut on August 13, and was in the match-day squad for five consecutive games: all was going to plan. But he has since missed out on RBNY's last three outings (two in MLS, one in CCL), and Jesse Marsch indicated to Big Apple Soccer's Kristian Dyer that Damari is likely to be unavailable for selection for a fourth consecutive match day:

Probably not available for this weekend, a possibility for Tuesday.

It is, as Marsch said, "an unfortunate setback" - more for the player than the club.

The RBNY head coach did also say "we still got a lot of time left", which is an optimistic assessment. The Red Bulls have five games left on their schedule, plus whatever number of playoff games they get to play.

By the time RBNY hits the post-season, it will want to have a settled squad with a clear understanding of its best starting and bench options. Working a new player into the rotation is a sensible thing to do, and when Damari was signed there were still more than 10 games to play on the schedule. If he misses out on Montreal, he'll be back with four matches left to get his stint in New York back on track in time for the post-season. And if he doesn't, it will be the third time in two seasons that he has been derailed by injury at a Red Bull club.