Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Red Bulls' Solér Discusses Offseason Plans

Solér Speaks, Finally
Since the New York Red Bulls were knocked out of the MLS playoffs by the Los Angeles Galaxy back in November, almost all of the news coming out of Harrison has been about players departing. First a large chunk of the reserve team was let go, then the club cut loose a group of veterans that included Chris Albright, Bouna Coundoul and Carlos Mendes in the re-entry draft. The only confirmed addition to date has been homegrown signing Connor Lade.

On Tuesday, however, General Manager and Sporting Director Erik Solér sat down with a group of media, including the New York Post's Brian Lewis and's Kristian Dyer, to sketch out the clubs plans for the next several months, leading up to the nationally televised kickoff in Dallas on March 11. You can find the Post's report here and Dyer's story here, both of which contain some interesting nuggets:
  • The Red Bulls have identified central defense as their primary focus over the winter, as they look to cut down on costly mistakes at the back. 
  • Creative midfielder is another area of need, and one that may be filled by a designated player - although the identity of that player has yet to be determined. The Red Bulls want a midfielder with a good pedigree who can both pass and create. More than likely, this will be a mid-summer addition, rather than a January transfer window move.
  • Solér was adamant that Rafa Marquez would return, but as a defensive midfielder. A report in Brazilian media yesterday indicated that Marquez has been in discussions with Flamengo about a move to the Rio-based club, but that should be taken with a massive grain of salt. In all likelihood, Rafa will be back in New York, his many critics be damned. 
  • Solér also insisted that Tim Ream would not be sold or loaned to a club in England, despite numerous rumors linking him to West Bromwich Albion and Bolton Wanderers.
  • If Frank Rost fails to return to New York in 2012, the Red Bulls will be without a goalkeeper only three months from kickoff. But Solér told the media that the club is trying to find a way to keep the big German, on a non-DP contract. Should they succeed, they would look to fill the backup role with a young American shot stopper, while finding a reliable third option. Bouna Coundoul's stay in New York is over.
  • Joel Lindpere's contract option has been picked up for 2012 (a no brainer), and RBNY is in early discussions with the player to sign a longer-term deal.
It would appear that Solér and Backe have at least correctly diagnosed the team's problems. (Have they been reading my holiday wish list?) Whether they can find the right solutions remains to be seen. 

One additional piece of news emerged yesterday, with the Daily Harrison reporting (via Twitter) that the Town of Harrison, in the midst of a tax dispute with the Red Bulls, has classified Red Bull Arena as a delinquent taxpayer and plans an "accelerated sale" of a lien on the property on December 15. The two sides presented arguments regarding the dispute in a New Jersey tax court recently, with a ruling expected in early 2012. The tax lien sale by the Town is clearly a measure intended to accelerate the process and get something now, even if it turns out to be far less than what they have been asking for. Longtime Viper's Nest reader John Peros, who is more versed in real estate law than I will ever be, explained:
The town sells the lien (also called selling a note) at a discounted percentage, sometimes as little as 10 cents on the dollar. The company who purchases the lien gets the right to collect on the lien. Typically they will settle with the debtor. So, in essence, Harrison figures they will never collect the whole amount from RBNY, so they sell the lien, collect something and let someone else deal with the hassle. Chances are, you will see RBNY quietly settle this for a fraction of the original amount.
That sounds somewhat less alarming than the original report, but it sure would be nice to see the Red Bulls and the Town put the matter to bed and move forward. There has been quite a bit of development around the Arena, with the demolition of industrial properties near the PATH station, the addition of new businesses in the area, a new hotel, and even plans to develop one of the lots directly in front of the stadium. With development finally under way in earnest, it's unfortunate that a black cloud still hovers over the relationship between the club and municipal authorities.
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