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Love of game greater for Red Bulls’ Vincent Bezecourt after knee injury

Mar 17, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake defender David Horst (4) and New York Red Bulls midfielder Vincent Bezecourt (88) battle for control of the ball in the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports)

HANOVER, N.J. — There’s a joy that radiates from Vincent Bezecourt when he’s on the field. It’s there on the training pitch and especially evident on game day.

Its origins go back to when Bezecourt was growing up in France and just learning the sport. It grew stronger when the New York Red Bulls midfielder was out for seven to eight months following knee surgery last year.

“The thing is, when you enjoy it, you miss the game a lot more than when you’re playing,” Bezecourt told Pro Soccer USA. “I think now I enjoy it even more than before.”

Red Bulls coach Chris Armas has noticed. The 25-year-old impressed with starts in the first two games of the MLS season, at his favored No. 10 spot.

“He brings a pureness to that part of the field and he plays free,” Armas said. “He looks like he’s always having fun. It’s like the dream of any coach for a player, that he looks like a kid out there when he’s playing. He plays free and he can create these, he’s got imagination. He runs, he chases, he helps with the pressing, he has final play in him.”

It’s a position Kaku has had locked down since his big-money transfer from Club Huracan in Argentina prior to the 2018 season. But Armas chose to rotate his roster for an opening-day 1-1 draw with Columbus and had Kaku off his gameday 18-man roster against San Jose, citing a “minor internal issue.”

In his absence, Bezecourt had an assist in the 4-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes

And with Kaku part of the Paraguay national team for international friendlies against Peru and Mexico, Bezecourt likely has another chance to impress against Orlando City SC Saturday at Red Bull Arena.

“It’s nice that he gets some minutes up there. We have another piece up the field,” Armas said. “We all know that we love Kaku and he’s a genius on the ball who gives us something so different from anyone that we have. We have some good options.”

Bezecourt also had a promising start to 2018, his first with the Red Bulls senior team after coming up through Red Bulls II. He started five of the club’s first nine games, had a pair of assists in a season-opening win over the Portland Timbers and scored his first goal in a 4-0 rout of New York City FC in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

But surgery to his right MCL Aug. 31 ended his season and started an arduous rehabilitation process.

It was his first major injury, first surgery. It’s a trying situation for anyone to deal with, magnified when your family is thousands of miles away.

But Bezecourt leaned on Florian Valot, who is also from France and followed a similar path through the Red Bulls pyramid — and who was also recovering from knee surgery.

The two were close already, roommates in fact, but the bond tightened during those difficult months.

“It’s not easy every day, but I’ve grown as a person and I feel stronger this year for sure,” Bezecourt said. “We helped each other last year so now this year I’m going to be there for him, for sure.”

Watching Valot leave Saturday’s match with another season-ending ACL injury was difficult for Bezecourt, who couldn’t help but think of his own situation. But he knows he can’t let those thoughts linger, especially when he’s on the pitch.

“You just call for a little bit of luck and hopefully you get you free and nothing will happen to you,” Bezecourt said. “It’s part of the game. There are some hard tackles you can’t predict or expect.”

It’s all part of the game that Bezecourt loves unconditionally.

“Football is my passion from from when I was a kid,” Bezecourt said. “Obviously after a year out like that, just playing every day, training every day and being back at Red Bull Arena is just joy. I enjoy every moment of it.”

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