Friday, January 28, 2011

Rodgers Signing Official; RBNY Feelin' Hot Hot Hot

With just a few more days left before the Red Bulls jet off to Mexico to begin preseason training, the seemingly endless Luke Rodgers transfer saga finally came to its conclusion this morning. The former Notts County striker, who has spent his career bouncing around England's second and third divisions, officially joined the squad at training today for the first time. Hans Backe worked with the feisty Englishman during his brief tenure with the Magpies, and knows what he can provide - specifically an injection of pace, an ability to get in behind defenders and a strong work ethic.

With the signing of Rodgers, the continued maturation of Juan Agudelo and the addition of Corey Hertzog, a strike force that looked slow and immobile last season suddenly seems much more dangerous. Still, a lot will depend on the new players adapting quickly, not to mention the reliability of a certain Mr. Henry.  If TH14 is ready to roll up his sleeves and let his game do the talking this could really be a hell of a season in Harrison.  Let's see how Backe decides to arrange the various pieces on his chessboard as training begins in earnest, but if Rodgers and Jan Gunnar Solli live up to their billing, the Red Bulls could be an absolute pain in the ass to play against.

In other news, though there has been no official announcement from the club yet, Soccer By Ives is reporting that central defender Sacir Hot (pictured above) has signed on as the club's fourth homegrown player, just days after Matt Kassel made it official. Hot is widely considered one of the brightest young prospects to emerge from the Red Bull Academy, though he spent 2009-2010 at Boston College. Recently, Hot had been linked with a possible move to Germany, and participated in trials with Borussia Moenchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund in recent weeks, but he was back training with RBNY today. The speed of his signing comes as a bit of a shock, but it's in keeping with new MLS League Rules unveiled today that place no limits on the number of academy players a team may add to its roster. The Red Bulls have one of the stronger youth systems in MLS and seem intent on using it to their maximum advantage.

What does the signing of Hot mean in practical terms? Well, first and foremost some awesome chants, and I've already seen a few good ones, inspired by this and this. Then there's the possibility of a Ream/Hot center back pairing, which sounds vaguely obscene. But on a more serious note, if I were Andy Boyens I would not be buying a new home in the New York/New Jersey area. A backline that looked a bit shaky a few weeks ago has been strengthened with the addition of Hot and Tyler Lassiter, and we may see even more reinforcements arrive on the right side. Boyens and his salary are probably expendable.

A few more tidbits before I go:
  • The Red Bulls preseason schedule is coming together, and it includes a friendly match against Chivas de Guadalajara. There are also rumors of a match in Cancun against Atlante. In addition, RBNY will square off in Florida against Chicago Fire and Miami FC, and contest friendlies in Arizona vs. FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City.
  • Six weeks before the season begins, we still don't have a set playoff system or MLS match calendar, but we do know that Houston Dynamo will be joining the Eastern Conference, at least temporarily. What happens next year when Montreal becomes team 19 is anyone's guess. With the balanced schedule this year, I'm not sure how much of a difference this really makes, but The Soccer Don moves in mysterious ways. A single table is just too logical I guess.
  • Those hoping to see the Wilpon family involved in MLS or the New York Cosmos project may have to start finding other millionaires with vast tracts of land in Queens. After getting caught up in the Bernie Madoff mess, the family is now rumored to be seeking new investors to help prop up the Mets.  Taking all this into account, it's hard to fathom how they might be able to plunk down a few hundred million on a new soccer stadium.
  • Finally, a very interesting piece on development in Harrison appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. After a year of inactivity, it looks as though commercial and residential projects around Red Bull Arena might finally be ready to take off in 2011. Fingers crossed.

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