Sunday, December 11, 2011

Red Bulls Hot Stove Heating Up: Ream to West Brom?

Ream: West Brom Bound?
Following a turbulent 2011 regular season for the New York Red Bulls, General Manager Erik Solér and Head Coach Hans Backe have played their cards very close to the vest as they look to reshape and add depth to the squad for 2012. Apart from sanctioning the departure of a half dozen fringe players and exposing highly-paid veterans such as Carlos Mendes, Bouna Coundoul and Chris Albright to this year's Re-Entry Draft (Mendes has since been snapped up by Columbus), there has been little to no action to report. No trades have been consummated, no selections were made by New York in the first phase of the Re-Entry process, and even rumors have been thin on the ground.

Greg Sutton's loan spell at expansion Montreal Impact was made permanent this week, but that was hardly a surprise. Young defender Connor Lade has been added as RBNY's fifth homegrown signing, but given the Red Bulls' lack of draft picks in 2012, it makes sense for the club to fill out their roster with homegrown signings.

Our man Homebrew ran the numbers on the Red Bulls earlier this week and concluded that, absent additional departures, the team has approximately $420,000 of cap room, as well as four international slots to fill. (Keep in mind, of course, that MLS' obscure rules make it very difficult to work these things out precisely.) With the fate of players such as Brian Nielsen, Carl Robinson and Frank Rost yet to be decided, both figures could increase substantially. Keep in mind, however, that should Rost return to Europe RBNY would have three goalkeeper slots to fill in its roster.

One easy way for the Red Bulls to get additional wiggle room would be to loan or sell one of their two young USMNT players currently trialing in England - Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream - thereby pocketing substantial allocation dollars. Of the two, Ream is looking far more likely to be loaned out, with rumors circulating yesterday that West Brom boss Roy Hodgson was impressed enough with the young defender to consider pursuing a deal. Presumably the loan would run through May, but it would leave the Red Bulls with yet another gaping hole to fill in central defense, an area where they are already thin. Whatever financial benefit New York would enjoy as a result of Ream's departure needs to be balanced against the very real possibility that Stephen Keel would be the club's only remaining experienced central defender (let's not even contemplate Rafa Marquez dropping back from midfield). That's pretty scary.

The hot stove should begin to heat up further this week, before reaching full boil in January when the European transfer window opens. With so many slots to fill, limited options in the draft, and a less than stellar group of players available in the second phase of Re-Entry Draft RBNY will need to be active on the international market and open to trades.
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