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New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas frustrated by late red cards against Houston Dynamo

Kaku’s red card came as a result of an off-ball retaliatory incident in which Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said he was taunted by Maynor Figueroa, who stomped on his foot.

Nov 4, 2018; Columbus, OH, USA; New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas directs his team during a game against Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium. (Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports)

HANOVER, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls were already going to be shorthanded for Sunday’s showdown with Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium due to injury and international call-ups.

MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long is with the US men’s national team, who play Mexico in the Concacaf Gold Cup final Sunday night. Central defense partner Tim Parker, who trained on the side Friday, is questionable with an ankle injury that sidelined him Wednesday in Houston.

But the Red Bulls will also be without right back Michael Amir Murillo and playmaker Kaku after both were sent off in the final seven minutes of a 4-0 loss to the Dynamo that had long since been decided.

The timing of the red cards — for Murillo it was a second bookable offense, while Kaku was issued a straight red — and the ramifications Sunday did not sit well with Red Bulls coach Chris Armas.

Kaku’s sending off was especially upsetting, an off-ball incident with Maynor Figueroa after Alberth Elis’ goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time.

“The tough challenge to go to Atlanta to win didn’t get easier by the end of a game that the result is [already decided] that we lose two play two more players,” Armas told Pro Soccer USA after training Friday. “Yeah, we didn’t need that.”

Armas said Figueroa taunted Kaku after the goal and stomped on his foot. Kaku retaliated and both were sent off.

“Kaku knows this is just one area of his development in his process that he wants to grow,” Armas said. “And It’s just controlling his emotions. This is also what makes him good and very different, the amount of passion he has on every play and every moment of games.”

Armas said its disappointing because this latest incident comes on the heels of some of Kaku’s best moments since arriving from Club Huracan in Argentina prior to the 2018 season.

He’s lauded the Paraguayan international’s attitude off the field and his play on it, where he had a five-match scoring streak with three goals and two assists before the lopsided loss in Houston.

“He’s been so good for us, he’s been so in with the group, the way he’s showing up every day and giving around here,” Armas said. “I think it’s the best he’s ever been. So you take it one step back there.”

Even in that game, Armas said when Kaku came on as a second-half substitute he provided a spark and continued working hard even after Elis’ first goal that put the game away in the 72nd minute.

Everything was positive about Kaku’s shift, until the sending off, his second of the year. The first came when he fired a ball into the stands out of frustration at Children’s Mercy Park late in the second half of a 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City April 14. He also received a two-game ban for that incident. 

“He understands it, we understand it, we want to help we want to help him through figuring some of that out,” Armas said. “But we know that he’s got to control his emotions. That is what’s driving him oftentimes.”

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