Grella has been troubled by a persistent knee injury since last year's playoffs. Ultimately, after pre-season and early-season efforts to address the issue apparently failed, he was sidelined for course of new treatments back in March. He got about 15 minutes off the bench against Philadelphia Union on May 6, his first competitive appearance for RBNY since March 19.
Grella has been injured, not unconscious, and is therefore well aware of his team's recent struggles - including the 3-0 loss to Philadelphia Union that he participated in. "The last two games have been not what we wanted. We struggle a little bit away from home - I think that's not a secret," he said of RBNY's most recent away-day disappointments.
Perhaps one of the things the Red Bulls have been missing so far this season is a fully-fit Mike Grella. In his first two seasons with RBNY, he made 65 MLS regular-season appearances for the first team, including 58 starts. And he contributed 16 goals and 13 assists in that time.
In his third season with RBNY, Grella has so far made four MLS appearances, no starts, played only 112 minutes, and contributed no goals or assists.
In principle, the Red Bulls are stacked with players who can play Grella's position (usually on the left of the 3 in the 4-2-3-1). In practice, Daniel Royer, Alex Muyl, Derrick Etienne, Fredrik Gulbrandsen and Gonzalo Veron have combined for four league goals and one assist in the league so far this season.
That's not nearly enough to compensate for the loss of Grella's scoring and that of Lloyd Sam. In 2015, those two players were the Red Bulls' second and third highest regular-season goal scorers, providing 19 goals between them. In 2016, with Sam traded away, Grella's seven goals were the second-highest regular-season total on the roster.
The team needs someone to step up to provide goals and assists when Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan cannot. Grella has been the most consistent source of neither-BWP-nor-Kljestan scoring for RBNY over the last two seasons. Maybe the best option to provide the goals Mike Grella used to get for the team is, well, Mike Grella.
But a fit Grella, not one hobbled by a knee injury that won't go away. Fortunately, he seems optimistic about the effect of his latest treatments:
This is as close to 100% as I've felt, pain-free on the field. Even when you're getting back in the beginning, it's very hard because you don't trust it or you've got a little bit of pain. But the last week...or four, five days Ahave been fantastic for me, not feeling any pain. It's been a step definitely in the right direction.
Grella credits focus on flexibility in training and regular applications of the Graston Technique for getting him back into the sort of shape he's used to being in.
We have yet to see him start, or put in significant minutes, for RBNY this season. But perhaps the run of home games the Red Bulls kick off with LA Galaxy on May 14 will be the opportunity for Grella to get his first start, and maybe even first goal, of the new season.