Riding high on a four game win streak, New York is not only looking to this weekend’s MLS matchup with the Montreal Impact, but looking to its depth and other competitions and trading away young phenoms.
Goats and Bulls
The tweet heard round the MLS world today came from Heath Pearce who tweeted he’d been traded to the New York Red Bulls. No one knew who or what the Red Bulls gave to Chivas in this trade. Turns out it was the young Juan Agudelo, recently returned from injury. New York gets a solid defender in Pearce, with Chivas paying some of his salary, and a reported sizeable amount of allocation money. If Chivas were to sell Agudelo in the future, New York would also see some of that. Initially it was thought Mexican DP Rafa Marquez would be making the trip cross-country but his agent was witnessed to be at practice today. Rumors swirled on twitter for over an hour on which player New York would give up for Pearce. Info surfaced that Marquez was demanding a trade and then more info surfaced saying that he and his agent vetoed a trade to Chivas. Either way, Agudelo is a goat and Pearce a bull. This all sets up a very intriguing match this coming Wednesday when New York hosts Chivas. Juan Agudelo will possibly partner with Juan Pablo Angel, a guy he started to learn from back in 201 when he first came into the league. Agudelo assisted JPA late in the second leg of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals against San Jose giving New York hope of extra time before San Jose scored a late goal to knock New York out. Two former metros does not bode well as previous players always find success against this team.
US Open Cup
The first round of the US Open Cup has concluded and with the new format, all 16 MLS clubs have learned whom they will face in the third round. The Red Bulls have two possible outings, depending on who advances out of the second round matchup of Reading United AC (PDL) and Charleston Battery (USL Pro). If Charleston wins, the Red Bulls will travel to South Carolina for a May 29th match. If Reading wins, The PDL team will travel to Red Bull Arena for a May 29th clash.
The Open Cup in the past seemed to be a thorn in the side of New York’s coach Hans Backe, who in 2011 sent an all reserve side with Assistant coach Mike Petke at the helm the team against the Chicago Fire. New York was embarrassed in a 4-0 drumming and the fans, especially those who traveled, felt it was a slap in the face. Red Bull fans this season, however, are salivating over the Open Cup and in all reality the clubs first chance at true silverware. Not only has Hans Backe said the team is taking the competition seriously but he has pointed that star forward and captain Thierry Henry should see minutes in the third round.
Backe is also high on the competition because he has faith in his reserve players this season to get. With all of New York’s injuries the past few weeks, many reserve players have made the jump from bench to starter, becoming some of the keys to New York’s four game win streak. Not only are the reserve players getting results in the MLS but they have the confidence and overt praise in the media. A year ago it seemed Backe could not be bothered with young American talent but things can change in a year. He is starting an American in goal who is a rookie by all meanings of the word but plays with the style of a seasoned veteran. Three of his back four starters, who are all young Americans, had minimal MLS experience going into a tough stretch of games. When his starters from last year started returning from injury, they did not automatically take back their old positions. Jan Gunnar Solli did not take back his right back spot but instead flowed into the midfield for New York. Roy Miller came back from injury to ride the pine all but eight minutes against Houston. Though Miller did get the start against Philly, Lade had games against San Jose and DC over his teammates. To say New York fans are pulling for a Reading United win come this Tuesday, is an understatement.
New York has received both good and bad news on the injury front as of yesterdays practice. It’s always easy to receive bad news first and there is not much worse news than learning that Teemu Tainio may have to retire all together from the injuries he has suffered. Tainio, who has only played 180 minutes for NY this season, had returned to the practice field recently for fitness drills when he suffered the setback in his recovery from a knee injury. It was believed on Wednesday that he would miss another two months after the setback but today brings word that he may retire all together. It seems Brandon Barklage will also be staying at right back a little longer as Jan Gunnar Solli, returning from a calf strain, now has a tear in his thigh.
The Red Bulls did receive good news on four of its injured players though. First up, Jose Angulo and Stephen Keel. Both players returned to the practice field for fitness drills since picking up their injuries. Angulo is returning from a knee injury while Keel has stress fractures in his back. Hans Backe says Angulo will return within the week to practice and that Keel could be out a minimum one more week. Captain Thierry Henry returned to the practice field recently form his hamstring injury suffered in the 1-0 win against the Revs. He will not be available for selection against Montreal but is expected start next Wednesday against Chivas at Red Bull Arena.
Center back Wilman Conde is finally starting to get healthy again as well. Conde marshaled the backline to two victories early in the season after New York started the season off horribly on defense. He suffered a groin injury late in the game against Montreal after being sidelined almost a year with an ankle injury. Conde suffered a setback in training that has kept him out longer than expected. However, Conde may miss more time even if he is fit for the Chivas game, which Backe says he will start. Early Saturday morning, Conde was arrested for assaulting a police officer. New York has decided to only fine Conde and give him a second chance but as of this writing, Sporting Director Erik Soler had not talked with MLS to see if they would suspend the Colombian. Soler initially talked with the league prior to talking with Conde to see what avenues the team could take. Soler expects the league to follow suit with the club at most but will still talk with them in the coming days. Backe says he is not worried about the league suspending Conde over his arrest.
DP Rumors Abound
With the summer transfer window approaching and European leagues coming to a close, be prepared for dozens of crazy transfer rumors regarding MLS clubs, specifically the Red Bulls. Two weeks ago, it seemed Nesta was set to ink a deal with New York for two million dollars over two years as the Milan star had recently announced the end of his tenure in Italy saying he wanted to retire in America and MLS.
Ives Galarcep (Soccer by Ives, Fox Sports, Fox Soccer) tweeted a conflicting report about New York and aging DP’s stating Erik Soler and the team is looking for young DP’s. Now this fits in with all of the Stephen Ireland to NY rumors over the last few months. However, Alex Labidou of Goal.com spoke with Ireland’s North American representative, Dejan Drobnjak, stating that Ireland would not be signing or be loaned out to New York come summer. Drobnjak cited Ireland’s end of season form and the changes at Villa Park as the reasons behind the deal falling through. Aston Villa recently fired manager Alex Mcleish and New York’s landscape has changed as well.
Rumors on who the young DP that New York will want to sign will grow out of control soon. I hear Robin Van Persie is on the market but we won’t see him in Red Bull Arena unless it’s to watch a game from the stands as he did last season. Erik Soler still hopes to bring back Luke Rodgers from the depths of Norway during the summer but little hope remains in that path.
(image courtesy of mlssoccer.com)