Friday, February 3, 2012
Photo Credit: Alfonso Jimenez via Wikimedia Commons
Ever since Amado Guevara was shown the door, I've been clamoring for an actual #10 Creative Midfielder for our team - to absolutely no avail. That genius Bruce Arena (besides destroying our pretty good backline in 2007) saddled us with the perenially injured Claudio Reyna, who (as a defensive midfielder) was absolutely not the creative player we needed. We then watched as the Juan Carlos Osorio/Jeff Agoos Dream Team built a side that, despite itself, stumbled into the 2008 MLS Cup Final against a very average Columbus Crew team. Average in all positions, except a key one. Yes, the Crew had an actual #10 creative midfield genius on their roster, the legendary Guillermo Barros-Schelotto. At Columbus, the Argentinian midfield maestro's specialty was making average MLS players look world class.
At MLS Cup 2008, the Red Bulls had no one that even came close to being in the same league as Mr. Barros-Schelotto - and with good reason. At some point that season, Juan Carlos Osorio had declared that his team "might not need" that type of player. That, in itself, was an odd statement, as Osorio is Colombian and ALL Colombian teams have such a player (and usually more than one). It was not a shocker then (to me, at least) that Mr. Barros-Schelotto proceeded to, single-handedly, kill the Red Bulls that beautiful Southern California November afternoon (yeah, I was there in person).
After a 2009 that's best forgotten, the Erik Soler/Hans Backe regime took over. Nothing much changed in the middle of the Red Bulls midfield, however. While the Thierry Henry signing was a blockbuster, by MLS standards, the signing of Mexican International Rafael Marquez (another DP defensive midfielder) left me, once again, scratching my head. Didn't these guys see what was needed? I mean, it was right there for all to see! By that point, the talent of Colombian DP forward Juan Pablo Angel had been wasted. JPA had to constantly track back to collect balls and distribute, when it was he who needed to be on the receiving end of some magic distribution. With the failed DeRo experiment, and the wasting of a DP slot on an aging German keeper (because the two veterans we had royally sucked), we saw the considerable talents of Thierry Henry wasted as well. So is there hope on the horizon?
With statements made recently by both Hans Backe and Sporting Director Erik Soler about targeting a midfield maestro for a Summer 2012 transfer, it would seem that way. But would this "hope" come in the form of an aging, past his prime, Euro superstar? A recent article in the NY Times' Goal Blog seems to indicate that isn't the case. According to Jack Bell, a trusted source tells him the Red Bulls are after former Manchester City (current Aston Villa) creative midfielder Stephen Ireland (pictured above). The 25 year old Ireland, a player that I rate as a major talent, is in the second year of a four year Aston Villa contract. The Birmingham club paid Manchester City a hefty £8m transfer fee, so it would be difficult for the Red Bulls to get him on a so-called "free". Indeed, there are quite a few reasons why this transfer is highly unlikely to happen, but, as this article points out, this rumor might actually have some credence.
So as unlikely as this Ireland rumor is, I'm going to hope it happens. I'd rather the Red Bulls not sign a Ballack or a Del Piero type - an aging European looking for one last payday. While Columbus was lucky to get a few good years out of a veteran like Barros-Schelotto, I'd rather our club go after an unheard of creative midfield gem. It's been suggested by several RBNY fans I know that such players might not even exist. I say: If RSL, Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle can find them, why can't we?
The Luke Rodgers Saga:
Many a Red Bulls fan breathed a sigh of relief when English forward Luke Rodgers announced (on Facebook) that he had obtained a new visa and would be joining the club in Mexico. Rodgers had, apparently, run afoul of US Immigration policies by over-staying his initial visa, so to hear that everything was sorted was fantastic news. Not so fast though. A tweet from the NY Times' Jack Bell announced that Rodgers' new visa was still not a done deal. More cause for concern was the fact that the Red Bulls press release, announcing Rodgers' success in securing a new visa, had been removed. Stay tuned and let us pray!
Joel Is Staying:
Some actual good news, earlier in the week, regarding Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere. The Red Bulls announced that the "Estonian Beast" had signed a multi-year contract to remain with the club. Welcome news indeed, as it was rumored that Lindpere might have been looking to exit the club, sooner rather than later. Being able to keep Lindpere in the fold is, in my honest opinion, the best move the Red Bulls have made this off-season. With his immediate future sorted, Joel can now concentrate on recreating the fine form he's shown over the last two seasons and bringing the MLS Cup to NY.
Some other stuff:
Lots of trialists at Red Bulls pre-season camp in Mexico. You can click here for a rundown of names and numbers. You can also click here for a bit more information on a few of the new faces.
New Red Bulls center back Wilman Conde said all the right things, regarding his lofty aspirations, in this interview (in Spanish).
The new MLS Power Rankings are out. Please click here to see where the Red Bulls stand at the moment.