New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe has a difficult decision to make in the coming days regarding one of his most promising players. Senegalese striker Macoumba Kandji is back from injury, fully fit and seemingly on the verge of an exceptionally good run of form. But as of now, it seems he doesn’t have a place in the Red Bulls’ starting eleven.
Kandji broke a bone in his foot back in late April, and the long road of recovery and rehabilitation is now all but over. In the last two games Kandji has truly impressed for the Red Bulls, albeit in friendly matches. Against both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, Kandji showed that he could partner with Thierry Henry in an effective strike pair, but the chances of that happening much during the remainder of this seasons seem relatively thin.
Juan Pablo Angel, New York’s captain and leading scorer, missed the friendly matches with an ankle injury, giving Kandji the opportunity to play some significant minutes alongside Henry. But no matter how well Kandji did, no matter how good the Henry-Kandji tandem looked, Angel with undoubtedly start up top with Henry.
That leaves Hans Backe with a difficult choice, the kind of difficult choice New York managers rarely seem to have. What does he do with the talented Kandji? Can he sit a player who has looked so dangerous recently?
The most likely scenario is that Kandji will start in the midfield somewhere, but that choice certainly has its question marks. Kandji has looked so effective playing as a striker, and often times higher up the pitch than Henry. Can he be as effective when dropping further back?
The danger in playing Kandji in the midfield is that position may not suit his strengths. He gets in behind defenders and his skill allows him to beat players one-on-one. In the midfield, his passing may be exposed. And if he tries to use his skill on the ball it could turn frustrating for the strikers if he holds the ball too long and gets dispossessed. The wing seems a better place than in central midfield, but Kandji is a finisher and not a crosser. Sure, he may be able to take players on out wide and beat them, but can he deliver the right ball for his teammates to finish?
Unless an injury to one of the strikers forces Kandji back into that roll, there are many questions for Backe to answer regarding Kandji’s place on the Red Bulls. Only time will tell, but for the first time in recent memory, the New York MLS franchise has more talented strikers than they can fit onto the pitch.