Monday, January 16, 2012

Red Bulls Notebook: Nielsen Extends His Stay, Camp Opens

Brian Nielsen Playing Soccer: A Rare Sight
The bulk of the New York Red Bulls squad gathered today at Montclair State University for the first training session of the 2012 season. It was a chance for new arrivals such as Ryan Meara and Jonathan Borrajo to meet their new teammates (well most of them anyway) and begin the process of building up fitness. Missing from training camp were several players, including Markus Holgersson, who is traveling with the Swedish National Team to Qatar, Tim Ream, who is tying up the final details of his transfer to Bolton Wanderers, and of course Thierry Henry, who is busy calling out disgruntled Arsenal fans for their lack of support.

With only one goalkeeper officially under contract at the moment (Meara) and the retirement of Carl Robinson imminent, the Red Bulls could be down to just 21 players by the time the Ream transfer is sewn up. Add the rumored arrival of Wilman Conde into the equation - which is likely dependent on the Ream deal going through - and you get to 22. That's still far below what the team will need to get through the rigors of an entire season, so Erik Solér and Hans Backe will need to find creative ways to add young players without busting their budget or running up against their limit of internationals.

Like Borrajo, Jhonny Arteaga featured in a few Red Bulls reserve matches last season and could be an interesting, inexpensive addition. You may remember him lining up for the other side in the US Open Cup tie against FC New York at Red Bull Arena last season. Arteaga and his teammates gave the Red Bulls quite a scare on that evening. In fact, the young striker, from Stamford, Connecticut, was one of the USL's more interesting players last season, scoring 13 goals in 21 matches for a mostly dismal FCNY team. Today, Kristian Dyer reported that the Red Bulls have extended the offer of a trial to Arteaga. Here's hoping it goes well for the kid. I remember his family showing up to support him in matching t-shirts in Harrison last year. Between Meara, Connor Lade, Borrajo and Arteaga, the Red Bulls have been quite active in integrating local talent into the squad. The question, of course, is whether any of them will see time on the pitch.

Speaking of not playing, media in Denmark are reporting that everyone's favorite invalid, midfielder Brian Nielsen, will be returning to New York for another six month stint, possibly with a view to a summer move to Red Bull Salzburg. Nielsen's continued presence in the Red Bulls' squad is one of the league's great unsolved mysteries. Why the club insists on keeping a player who has proven himself unable to stay fit and who costs more than $120,000 against the salary cap is anyone's guess. If healthy, he could conceivably provide a nice option on the left, but anyone willing to bet on the Dane staying healthy should have his head examined. Just when you think the Red Bulls are doing a good job of trimming roster fat, they sign up for another six months of Nielsen.

Back to the goalkeeper question. Our friend Dave Martinez at Empire of Soccer reported yesterday that the Red Bulls have made contact with goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell about a move back to MLS. You may remember the name, because Patterson-Sewell was previously RBNY's third keeper, back in the 2008 season. Though he didn't see any time in league games, he did feature in the friendly against Barcelona. Patterson-Sewell is currently with Atlético CP, a second division club in Portugal pushing for promotion, where he has been performing admirably and, according to this article from Yanks Abroad, attracting the attention of a number of clubs. Could this be the second "mystery American" that Erik Solér has spoken about in recent weeks? Possibly, but if Dave's report is accurate the timeline wouldn't seem to match up. In any case, the move could well be dependent on the Red Bulls paying a substantial transfer fee, and we all know how reluctant MLS is about securing players under contract.

Finally, those of you hankering for a hungry man sized portion of Red Bulls talk should definitely check out the latest edition of Talking Bull, where Ben Schneider and I discuss all of the latest transfer rumors, re-cap the draft and kick around a lot of other news. Michael Orr of the Portland Timbers podcast Soccer Made in Portland also discusses the Kenny Cooper trade.
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