Last week, New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch laid out an encouraging plan for Gonzalo Veron's return to action: the player would be back in training prior to the team's trip to Houston and was considered a possibility to play for RBNY against Orlando on April 9.
By the end of the week, the plan didn't quite hold up as hoped, but Marsch had penciled in Veron for playing time with NYRB II on April 5 - clearly the Red Bulls still expected to see the player back on the field sooner rather than later.
At RBNY's first training session of the new week, however, Veron's progress to fitness had taken an unexpected detour. Per Metro's (no relation) Kristian Dyer - and subsequently re-stated by an official release from the club - Veron is in Argentina.
Per comments reported by Dyer, it would seem the Red Bulls don't know exactly what is wrong with Veron:
He’s had certain parts where he feels stronger and others where he feels pain - Trying to determine exactly what’s going on.
We're trying to get to the bottom of what his injury is.
Any port in a storm, of course - but it is unclear why a doctor in Argentina might be better qualified to figure out what is wrong with Veron than those available to RBNY in the USA. Players do often visit specialists in countries other than those they play in, but that is traditionally for treatment of a known condition, rather than for a diagnosis.
It isn't uncommon either for a player to return to a doctor, club, or country where there might be better knowledge of his or her particular medical history, so maybe Veron is just checking in with a medic who knows him better than most.
But it's not a great sign that a player who was injured on March 2 (Veron's last appearance for RBNY was an injury-curtailed run against Vancouver Whitecaps in CONCACAF Champions League) is still in need of a definitive diagnosis on April 4.
And when one considers the recent news that RBNY is six months into a range of to-date unsuccessful efforts to cure Mike Grella's knee problem - well, it starts to feel like the club is having some extraordinary misfortune with rare and baffling sports injuries, at the very least.
It is now more than a month since Veron was injured against VWFC, and it would appear his recovery has retreated all the way back to the starting point: figuring out what it is that is ailing him. It is to be hoped he's back soon, but it would seem prudent to assume he won't be playing for RBNY against Orlando on April 9 - that target looks to have been missed.
Veron's career at RBNY has been blighted by injury. Last year, a knock in preseason cost him his place in the starting lineup as the Red Bulls struggled through several games without him and eventually figured out how to win without need for the Argentine's particular abilities.
This year, sadly, he seems to be on a similar trajectory. He was expected to be the second striker alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips in a 4-2-2-2 formation this season. That is the same plan RBNY abandoned last season, but this year's effort has been bolstered by the arrival of Fredrik Gubrandsen on loan from RB Salzburg, and a continuing interest in exploring Homegrown player Derrick Etienne's ability to succeed in the position in MLS (he's already proven himself a capable player for NYRB II in USL). The longer he spends on the sidelines, the greater the chance this season passes Veron by as well - because this year's commitment to the 4-2-2-2 comes with more options on the roster to make it work. (And there remains the possibility the team reverts to the formation - the 4-2-3-1 - it seems to think doesn't have room for Veron.)
The clubs' recent struggles to rehabilitate Grella and defender Gideon Baah (somewhat abruptly ruled out for the season) might not be entirely coincidental stories of similarly stubborn recovery processes in the squad. But the reason for Veron's latest protracted battle to get back on the field makes little difference to his specific circumstances: RBNY will need to figure out how to succeed without him, and the last time that happened it kept him on the fringes of the Red Bulls' plans for a long time. He might need an agent more than a doctor.