Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RBNY Media Day: Nielsen, Ibrahim Making Friends

The Red Bulls held their annual Media Day event yesterday at Red Bull Arena. Traditionally, this is a chance for the club to make a few announcements, introduce new players and set the stage for the season to come. While there were no earth-shattering announcements yesterday, there were still a few interesting bits of information.

First, Juan Agudelo and Luke Rodgers appear to be approaching full fitness, relieving some of the anxiety about the club's options at forward as Opening Day approaches. At goalkeeper, however, Hans Backe declined to reveal who he would select as his starter against Seattle. This is a bizarre state of affairs less than a week before kickoff. Sutton hasn't exactly torn up trees in preseason, so it's hard to understand why he should be preferred to Condoul, who - for all his faults - was one of the best keepers in MLS in 2010. As the Post's Brian Lewis explains, Backe is still annoyed at Condoul having accepted a call up for Senegal during the early part of preseason training, but surely he's not going to let that dictate who gets the call between the pipes on Saturday, is he?

According to Lewis, Backe also revealed that newcomers Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli would both start on Saturday, at right back and central midfield, respectively. With Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere on the flanks, that would seem to leave Mehdi Ballouchy as the odd man out in midfield, unless Richards is again shifted up front or Solli is preferred over Tony Tchani in the holding midfielder role.

Two players who don't figure to feature much for the Red Bulls this season are Salou Ibrahim and Brian Nielsen, both mid-season imports last season who have been plagued by injuries and poor form.'s RBNY beat reporter Kristian Dyer approached Ibrahim yesterday to ask how he was doing. The Ghanaian could not have been less happy to be there, it seems. Likewise Brian Nielsen (pictured above in one of his rare appearances for the team) whose bizarre interview with Metrofanatic is unlikely to endear him to the Red Bull faithful. For all of the praise heaped on the Scandinavian management team last year, these two acquisitions have to be questioned. If they don't want to be here, the club should get rid of them as soon as possible. At the very least, someone should have sat down with them for a brief media training session. Another example of the poor communications (more on this later).

Other notes:
  • As we suspected more than a week ago when we didn't see Giorigi Chirgadze's name on the Red Bull roster in the 2011 media guide, RBNY has parted ways with its first ever academy signing over what appear to be undisclosed personal issues. Nobody really expected Chirgadze to be a big contributor this season, after he was out all of last year with an injury, but once again - as was the case with Sinisa Ubiparipovic - the Red Bulls failed to inform its fans of the player's status, and it was left to Hans Backe to spill the beans in an off-the-cuff media Q&A. As a public relations professional with more than 14 years of industry experience, I find the Red Bulls' approach truly baffling. Sometimes PR people are only as good as the information they receive, so maybe it's not the fault of the communications team, but clearly there is a disconnect somewhere. If you want fans to be invested in and passionate about the club, you have to expect that they will have questions about players coming and going - it's the nature of the beast. Why not handle it professionally?
  • The Red Bulls are in the final stages of negotiations for a new TV contract with MSG. Both Steve Cangialosi and Shep Messing took part in Media Day, which would lead you to believe that a deal is imminent.
  • As expected, Tim Ream and Dane Richards have both been called up for their respective national teams' upcoming round of friendlies. With Agudelo and Marquez also likely to miss out on the trip to Columbus, the Red Bulls will have to find a way to piece together a lineup.
  • Check out the RBNY preseason previews from my friends Ben Schneider and Ray Curren at Once a Metro and World Soccer Reader.
  • According to several sources, the Red Bulls have surpassed 20,000 tickets sold for Saturday's opener against Seattle, while season ticket sales are up as well. If you have season tickets you are not using, please give them to someone who will. We need to be doing everything in our power make Red Bull Arena a more intimidating place to play. Late arrivals and rows of empty seats won't get it done.
  • Speaking of Seattle, they opened their season last night with a 0-1 home loss to Los Angeles Galaxy, thanks to a golazo by Juninho. If you missed it, you can see it here. Seattle is facing some squad turmoil of its own at the moment, with designated player Blaise N'kufo released just yesterday under mysterious circumstances. The Red Bulls have a chance to hand the Sounders their first ever 0-2 start on Saturday, and exact some revenge for last year's home defeat to Seattle.
  • Finally, kudos to Real Salt Lake for their 2-0 CONCACAF Champions League victory over Saprissa last night at Rio Tinto. Here's hoping this is the year that an MLS club finally lifts that trophy.

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