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New York Red Bulls concerned for Florian Valot after knee injury

Mar 16, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Florian Valot (22) is consoled by teammates while walking off the field with an injury during the first half against the San Jose Earthquakes at Red Bull Arena. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

HARRISON, N.J. — Here are three things we learned from the New York Red Bulls4-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday at Red Bull Arena.

Concern for Valot

Winger Danny Royer said he was right next to Florian Valot when the midfielder crumpled to the ground, screaming in pain while grasping at his right knee.

Royer and the rest of his teammates knew Valot’s story — the great preseason, the fast start to the 2018 season and the season-ending surgery needed to repair a torn left ACL.

“Not again” was the immediate thought.

“I was right next to him and I’m 100 percent sure he had a really bad feeling because I just saw it in body language and the way he was yelling, and I felt so bad,” Royer said. “I think he started crying and I think I almost started crying when I saw that, because I know how tough it is to get back from a long-term injury and he was working so hard and doing so well. He’s really important to the team. That was a terrible moment. We don’t know anything now for sure, but I hope he’s good and it’s not too bad.”

The surgery was to his left knee and this injury was to his right knee. Considering the months of rehab, Valot was understandably thinking the worst following what his Red Bulls teammates think was a late challenge.

“I don’t know what’s going on. It was a little bit of a late tackle and the ref is just telling me he twisted his knee alone. These things annoy me,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “I just hope Flo’s good because he’s had a tough last season, he’s come back fully fit in. He looks good and ready to go and then this happens. Fingers crossed for him.”

Valot covered his anguished face with his jersey as he left the field and gingerly walked to the locker room.

Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said during the postmatch news conference that Valot was getting a scan to assess the severity, but goalkeeper Luis Robles said later in the locker room it might not be as bad as initially feared.

“I’ve heard that it is pretty optimistic, optimistic about his injury,” Robles said.

Kaku suspended

In his postmatch comments, Armas addressed, albeit briefly, why Kaku was left off the gameday roster, a move initially called a coach’s decision by a club spokesman.

“We had a minor internal issue, and we dealt with that quickly,” Armas said. “It’s nothing to talk about or discuss here.”

Armas didn’t specifically comment on a Kaku tweet from Wednesday, which read in Spanish, “Sad when you realize, you’re not as important as you thought,” but he lauded Kaku’s passion and said, “We’ve just got to be mindful of how we do some of those things.

“We have to be mindful of how we educate our players and what they put out there. But sometimes in the spur of the moment, you put out things that maybe, you know, you could do it again, maybe not.”

Duncan’s two halves

Matias Almeyda’s gameplan appeared to be crystal clear in the opening 45 minutes — attack Kyle Duncan’s side of the field. The 21-year-old is a natural right back, but was tasked with playing left back Saturday and trying to limit Cristian Espinoza.

While Duncan isn’t new to playing left back — he said he did it in France with the Valenciennes U-19 squad — he struggled with the assignment in the first half.

“I felt like they just kept coming on that side because my head wasn’t in the game,” Duncan said. “They could see that I was out of it. So they just kept coming back after me and coming after me.”

Duncan said he “underestimated” Espinoza, who slipped in behind Duncan to put the Quakes in front in the fifth minute.

“I felt like I got caught out of position a little too high and obviously I created that counter attack because I put the ball directly in front of me for them to head it right back over me,” Duncan said. “I just slipped up, gotta get those details right.”

Constructive criticism followed from Wright-Phillips, who Duncan said told him “to shape up, man, get your head in the game,” and from Robles for his marking on a defensive corner kick.

“At that moment, it was more about shock, about waking him up because I know what he’s capable of, but at that point, Espinoza was getting the better of him,” Robles said.

Duncan needed to calm down and that respite came in the Red Bulls’ locker room at halftime. Following another conversation, this time with assistant coach CJ Brown, Duncan went back on the field for the second half a changed player.

“It was locked down on the left-hand side with him,” Armas said of Duncan’s play in the second half. “On the day, when you think of it as a whole, Kyle was excellent.”

There were more messages after the game, with a lot less screaming involved.

“CJ spoke to me. He told me, ‘You shaped up, calmed down,’” Duncan said. “Brad told me when he’s speaking to me, he’s not speaking at me, he’s speaking to me. He just told me to calm down, you’re a good player and do your job.”

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