Sal Zizzo is the Red Bulls’ incumbent right back. (Lucas Melano/USA TODAY Sports)
The Red Bulls find themselves with an intriguing logjam at right back.
They have starter Sal Zizzo, who has played well in the team’s first two games of the young MLS season.
They also have Panama international Michael Murillo, whom head coach Jesse Marsch wants to find some playing time for as the side heads into Sunday’s game at the Seattle Sounders.
Murillo won’t be available to the Red Bulls for next Saturday’s home game against Real Salt Lake because he has been called into Panama’s national team for two World Cup qualifying matches on March 24 and 28, the second against the United States in Panama City.
“Especially at the outside back position, we do things differently than in most places,” Marsch told reporters earlier this week. “So, we’re trying to get him up to speed tactically and what the rhythm of the game is.
“He needs an opportunity here. He’s done well in training. We’re just kind of trying to size up on how to help him succeed and how to put him into a position to succeed. It’s a talking point for this weekend. Then we’ll see ways on how to find ways to integrate him. So far he likes being here. He has put a lot into it. We’ve got to give to give him a shot here at some point.”
But will it be against the Sounders in a tough environment such as CenturyLink Field? That place should be rocking because Seattle will be celebrating its 2016 MLS Cup winners in its home opener.
Marsch knows what he has in Zizzo, a converted midfielder.
“Sal’s steady. He knows what we’re about,” the head coach said. “He fits in to the way we play. We can count on him. So far he has been good and we’ll continue to find a way to keep him going as well.”
New York’s outside back depth got a boost Saturday when Connor Lade played the opening 45 minutes in Red Bulls II’s 2-1 preseason home win over Bethlehem Steel, his first competitive action since he incurred a knee injury last season. Lade can play both outside back positions, including on the wings in the midfield.
“All of a sudden the options on the back line will start to grow, which is good,” Marsch said.
As for Zizzo, he can only worry about what he can control — his performance.
“Obviously, every day is … an opportunity to get better and improve,” he said. “We have a lot of competition with him [Murillo], with Connor [Lade], with Justin [Bilyeu]. Our outside backs, we have a pretty good depth there. Every day I just got to come out and train. I’m not really thinking about that too much. I’m just focusing on taking care of business, week in and week out. We’ve done well to get two results so far.”
The Red Bulls are a perfect 2-0-0 entering Sunday’s encounter.