Steve Birnbaum returned to the nation’s capital this weekend, sporting a slight alteration to his manicured hair cut, after Friday’s friendly in the Caribbean against Cuba. In the dying moments against Cuba, the D.C. United center back took a cleat to his head from a Cuba player, forcing the USA to finish off the friendly with just ten minutes, as Birnbaum was treated on the sideline in an attempt to stem the bleeding.
But while that appears to be the extent of the injury, there is still some question as to whether or not Birnbaum will take the field at his home stadium tomorrow night against New Zealand, as Jurgen Klinsmann and his team won’t make the determination of Birnbaum’s availability until tomorrow.
“Steve is doing great. He badly wants to get on the field tomorrow night,” Klinsmann said today in a press scrum at RFK Stadium. “We’re not taking any risks. We’ll see how he’s doing, we’ll talk to the doctors.”
Earlier in the day, B&RU asked United manager Ben Olsen about Birnbaum’s status. Olsen said that while Birnbaum had a decent sized gash on his head, there was no related concussion issues from the incident. And Olsen relayed the same uncertainty that Klinsmann and Birnbaum himself would give later in the day regarding the center back’s availability on Tuesday night.
“We’re taking it day by day. I’ll talk to them and see how it goes,” Birnbaum said of the steps that he and team will take in determining whether he plays against the Kiwis or not.
This is the second time in 2016 that Birnbaum has had a head injury that required treatment, but somehow didn’t end up in a concussion. In the first MLS game of the season, a clash of heads against the LA Galaxy forced Birnbaum to receive treatment on the sideline for a head injury, though he returned to the field with his head taped up. In the next game, a week later against the New England Revolution, Birnbaum was right back in his normal spot in the back line, this time sporting a rugby helmet to protect his wound.
“I’m sure it will happen at some point, Birnbaum said of the prospect of having to play with his head taped up or wearing a helmet. “I’ll have to talk to the doctors and see what they think.”
If Birnbaum is permitted to play tomorrow night and does make an appearance, he will earn his tenth cap for the US while playing in front of his home fans. After earning his first cap in January of 2015, Birnbaum has played 8 times for the US this year. Being able to play in front of his home fans is a feeling that Birnbaum hopes to enjoy against New Zealand.
“You want to play at your home stadium, in front of your own fans. To be able to represent your country while doing it is pretty cool.”