Thursday, January 13, 2011

Red Bulls Grab Four Players in 2011 Superdraft

The conventional wisdom about the Red Bulls coming into this year's MLS Superdraft in Baltimore was that they would seek out help in defense, focusing on the center back and fullback positions.  On the other hand, Erik Solér made it clear in interviews yesterday that if their favored targets at those positions were not available, they would select the best player available.  From the look of RBNY's picks, it seems that the second strategy won the day.

After seeing a number of defensive players snapped up in the first dozen picks, the Red Bulls pulled the trigger on Penn State Generation Adidas striker Corey Hertzog (above, right) with the #13 overall selection. Hertzog led the nation in goals and points scored in 2010, but after failing to agree to a homegrown contract with the Philadelphia Union a few weeks ago declared for the draft.  Hertzog showed well at the MLS combine and was ranked by Pro Player Pipeline as the 4th best forward in this year's class.  In Thierry Henry he will have a great mentor, while Juan Agudelo and Luke Rodgers should provide strong competition for playing time.  This definitely looks like a player for the future - a promising talent.  If you need proof, check out this sick strike against Gonzaga. It's also great to see the Red Bulls snag a player that the Union clearly coveted.

With their first second round selections, RBNY surprised a few people by taking John Rooney, the 20-year old younger brother of none other than Wayne Rooney.  The younger Rooney, who came up through the Everton youth system before playing for Macclesfield Town, trained with both the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders last season, but did not reach a contract agreement with either.  I saw him play in two MLS Combine games and was impressed with his decision making.  He really projects as more of an attacking midfielder than as a forward.  At worst, the Red Bulls will sell a ton of shirts.  At best, John will emerge from his brother's shadow to have a fine career of his own here in the States.  Brian Straus of AOL Fanhouse mentioned on his Twitter feed that Rooney was "quivering" and "nearly in tears" when interviewed about his new club.  I love the passion he's shown already - good lad!

When the Red Bulls third and fourth picks rolled around, we finally saw the focus on defense.  Central defender Tyler Lassiter, from North Carolina State, was selected 30th overall.  A player that Hans Backe has already compared to Tim Ream, Lassiter was highly rated coming into the MLS Combine but struggled on day one, only to recover in subsequent appearances.  If he comes anywhere close to being the kind of player that Ream has become, the Red Bulls will have struck gold in the second round in consecutive years.  With their final selection, the Red Bulls took Matt Kassel's teammate at Maryland, midfielder/defender Billy Cortes.  Cortes, if he makes the squad, could provide backup for the aging Chris Albright, since both Jeremy Hall and Carey Talley have left town.

So what now?  Well, if their public statements are to be believed, the Red Bulls are still pursuing defensive and goalkeeping help, and waiting on word regarding Matt Kassel's homegrown contract.  Given the size of the roster, I think there is also a very real chance that we will see some trades and/or cuts in the coming days, leading up to the first training camp in Mexico on February 1.

Whatever contributions today's selections eventually provide on the pitch, RBNY is now far deeper, younger and faster than it was a year ago.  I really love seeing how quickly Solér and Backe have gone about instilling professionalism, adapting to the MLS system and using it to their advantage.  I don't know about you, but I'm already salivating thinking about the season ahead.  Bring on March!
blog comments powered by Disqus