Two New York Red Bulls starters ruled out for Saturday

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At first glance, this is pretty bad news for the New York Red Bulls.

Midfielder Teemu Tainio and center back Wilman Conde, two thirds of the side’s preferred central, defensive triangle, have been ruled out for Saturday’s test in Columbus.

It’s New York’s third go at life on the road. How did those other two work out? Somewhere between “bad” and “fiasco.”

(Actually, not all that bad But as they were the first two games of the year, and since we’re talking about New York, the closely watched side from the land’s dominant media market, #RBNY gets judged on a different scale – for better or worse. It is what it is.)

So Saturday’s match against a Columbus team was always important. And now, manager Hans Backe seems to fighting with a shorter stick.

But is it really so dire?

Stephen Keel will presumably come back into the lineup alongside Markus Holgersson in the center of New York’s defense. Keel, a sixth-year MLS man, has established himself as a trustworthy backup. The side’s passing out of defense might suffer a bit, but Keel’s tackling and ball-winning are dependable enough.

Meanwhile, the Rafa Marquez-Dax McCarty combo in central midfield is working fine, too. That’s the way it’s been for two games, anyway, as McCarty’s busyness and ability to be an effective two-way man complements Marquez’s desire to sit deep and play-make for recessed areas.

The length of Tainio’s anticipated absence is, on the other hand, rather alarming. He could miss up to six weeks with a knee injury collected Thursday in practice.

Even there, Joel Lindpere could play the holding midfield position if needed. In fact, it might just help Lindpere shake the funk that’s dragging down his 2012 season. There’s even a chance, apparently, that Backe benches his Estonian midfielder Saturday in favor of Mehdi Ballouchy.