COMMENTARY | When your favorite Major League Soccer team has picked up just two of a possible twelve points to begin the season, it's hard to find a lot of positives about that particular side. The 2013 New York Red Bulls have yet to earn a win under rookie head coach Mike Petke, who could be on the hot seat as soon as Easter Sunday if his squad fails to defeat Philadelphia Union on March 30, and they barely resembled a professional sports team in their loss at Montreal Impact this past Saturday.
I saw some hope for the Red Bulls in that defeat, though, and that hope came from debutant Péguy Luyindula.
Football has been a tough nut to crack for Luyindula since the 2011/12 European season. He fell out of favor with then PSG manager Antoine Kombouaré, so much so that the striker was relegated to the reserves. Luyindula then failed to win over new boss Carlo Ancelotti, and the 33-year old terminated his contract at the club last December before engaging in some preseason training with the Red Bulls.
What probably felt like a fresh start for Luyindula became just another hurdle to overcome. Petke and company were reportedly not blown away by the player's fitness and form, and they decided to not offer the former French international a contract before the start of the 2013 regular season. Luyindula continued working and eventually won over the RBNY front office, and he signed for the club on March 19.
Luyindula's MLS career got off to a rough start. He failed to run down a pinpoint cross 31 minutes into this past Saturday's match at Montreal, and he then squandered a clear chance in the middle of the Impact penalty area six minutes later. Something happened as the rust that comes from not playing competitive top-flight football began to wear off. Luyindula's striking got just a little bit better, and so did his runs in the final third. He evolved into New York's best attacking player on the pitch before fatigue set in, and his 79-minute shift was an adequate preview of what we could see from the Red Bulls up top assuming that Petke's squad eventually begins to click.
Captain Thierry Henry isn't always going to be an option for Petke. That's just what happens when you're dealing with a living legend who is in the twilight of his career, a player who has more miles on his legs than does my car and also a guy who sometimes isn't going to play because of field conditions. Luyindula survived playing on the Olympic Stadium turf just fine, and, if he can avoid injuries, there's no reason to believe he won't find starting XI fitness well before the summer months arrive.
What's important to remember about Luyindula is that he doesn't have to be a golden boot winner or even New York's top scorer. That "Kenny Cooper role" will be played by Fabian Espindola this season. Luyindula only needs to be maybe the third-best overall scoring option on a team that has Espindola, Henry, Juninho and Tim Cahill.
It is, of course, far too early to get overly excited about or overly down on Luyindula. There's only so much you can learn from 79 minutes of the fourth game of the season, after all. That the Red Bulls haven't been awful on the pitch during this current stretch and that Luyindula does look like a guy who can fit into the long-term plan for the season should keep all Red Bulls supporters from pressing any "panic" button before Easter.
Save such reactions for the summer transfer window.
Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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