Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Luke Rodgers to RBNY: Mini Me, You (Nearly) Complete Me

This (Wednesday) morning, Stefan Bondy is reporting that Rodgers' visa has NOT been denied, but it also has not yet been approved.

Late this afternoon the UK's Daily Mail reported that Luke Rodgers' application for a US work permit has been denied as a result of his previous affray conviction. No confirmation from the club yet, but we will keep our eye on it.

No that's not a photo still from the latest Austin Powers film. It's the Red Bulls' newest signing, Luke "Mini Me" Rodgers, alongside his former strike partner at Notts County, Lee "Dr. Evil" Hughes. With paperwork nearly complete and a visa close to being issued, Rodgers should arrive in New York sometime over the next several days to join his new teammates, barring any last minute snags [ed. - looks like there was a major snag]. According to the Post's Dylan Butler, County has essentially confirmed that Rodgers will be released following today's match against Lincoln City.

The addition of of the diminutive forward, which was hinted at weeks ago by rumor hound extraordinaire Three Four Three, is the handiwork of Hans Backe, who managed Rodgers during his brief tenure at Meadow Lane. Through three league games, despite two solid wins, the Red Bulls have failed to create many solid goal scoring chances. Adding Rodgers to the arsenal is clearly aimed at injecting some life into the Red Bulls' fairly anemic offense. Backe sees Rodgers providing pace on the counterattack, something that he feels is lacking among RBNY's current group of strikers.

Backe also spoke with Brian Lewis on Monday about Rodgers, praising his tenacity, work rate and his ability to stretch defenses with his pace. In fact, the Swede went so far as to call Rodgers a "pain in the ass." I've heard warnings from Notts County fans about Rodgers unfortunate tendency to stray offside, so that is definitely something that warrants close attention.

Another thing that has to raise a red flag about Rodgers is his rap sheet, which includes several assault and public order offenses, as well as a citation for releasing a firework in someone's face outside a pub. He could end up being as much of pain in the ass off the pitch as he is on it. It will be up to Backe to manage the pint-sized Englishman and integrate him into the squad. It's not every day that you see players from England's lower divisions arrive and thrive in MLS. This is an unusual signing in more ways than one.

With Rodgers on board, two questions remain:
  1. Who, if anyone, gets waived? Interestingly, John Wolyniec played no part in the Red Bulls 3-0 reserve team win today against St. John's.
  2. Who is the mystery left sided midfielder the Red Bulls are pursuing? Butler spoke with Backe about that again today:
“We’re working on it,” Backe said. “I hope we can land it before Thursday. Nowadays with football players, it’s not that easy with their clubs. I’m rather confident that we will do it, but when things aren’t done you never know. Anything can happen.”
As for that player’s identity, Backe offered a few clues for fans to chew on.
“He’s a player who has to get out of contract with his club. No transfer fees,” he said. “It’s a European player, but not Notts County…Pace, good left foot, good crosser of the ball, good one-v-one.”
Any guesses?
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