Luquinhas is a longshot to play for the Red Bulls on Thursday night. (USA TODAY Photo)

By Michael Lewis Editor

Gerhard Struber is hopeful that he will get two of his most important players back for Thursday’s game against Atlanta United at Red Bull Arena.

Midfielder Luquinhas and captain and center back Aaron Long missed Sunday’s 2-0 loss at Los Angeles FC due to COVID-19 protocols. Before they can don a Red Bulls uniform, both players must test negative twice.

Luquinhas is a bigger longshot to return than Long, the Red Bulls head coach said.

“We hope that he’s ready to fly back tomorrow [Wednesday],” Struber said during a Tuesday afternoon Zoom call with the media. “And then we need a negative test tomorrow and on Thursday, that he is available. We have to check this tomorrow. “Everything but at the moment looks not so good for us to add on.”

Struber was more optimistic about Long returning over Luquinhas.

“This looks very good,” he said. “I have a little bit more hope with him on Thursday. I hope that our captain is back and can help.”

There was little doubt the Red Bulls missed both players in their 2-0 loss at LAFC, in which the visitors conceded both goals during a short span in the second half. Long is a U.S. international. Luquinhas, who has been the team’s best attacking player, could have helped a side whose attack struggled.

One thing was certain – COVID-19 has worn thin with a frustrated Struber.

“The COVID situation makes no one happy, but we follow the rules, and we do everything in the end,” he said. “The players are healthy, and all the other players are protected in this direction. But right now, my patience with COVID is so much ending. The symptoms what the players have right now is a little bit the runny nose and nothing more.”

Two years after the pandemic struck the United States and the world, Struber indicated that he would like to see the league revisit the COVID protocol.

“So, the feeling, we should think about now, maybe the MLS rules we could make an update,” he said. “Maybe it’s the right time for a follow up to do to change a little bit … to go in this direction. It’s a difficult situation. My patience is absolutely ended in this direction.”

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